Symptomology and Shortcuts to Infinity sound nothing like the Beach Boys — and that’s saying something, considering lyricist Steve Kalinich’s long history with the band.
Instead, Kalinich and producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Tiven (Big Star, the Rolling Stones, the Alabama Shakes) offer a two-disc frenzy of blistering psychedelia and rollicking roots rock, a smattering of goofball humor (check out Zappa-esque titles like “Once My Zits Go Away,” “I Believe in Elephants,” “Grow a Pair” and “Don’t Fuck with Me,” mostly via a pair of alter egos named “Rev. Stevie Nobody” and “Jack Hashtag”), and — finally, right? — a dollop or two of classic 1960s-era transcendentalism (“When I Leave My Body,” “Fight for Peace”).
Turns out, there’s far more to this pair than the Beach Boys connection, something that’s also borne out on Symptomology and Shortcuts to Infinity with appearances on Disc 1 from legendary sessions guitarist Steve Cropper (“Time Bomb”), and Genesis and Weather Report drummer Chester Thompson (through five songs, including “Time Bomb”); and on Disc 2 from Queen guitarist Brian May (“Out of the Darkness”), and soul vocalist Willie Jones (“God Helps Those”). Cody Dickinson, of the North Mississippi All Stars, also appears on drums across both discs, which have been packaged together for release September 11, 2012, by MsMusic-Foothill Records.
At nearly two hours, there’s plenty to digest, but the best examples of the project’s heady mixture of Tiven’s Nashville soul and Kalinich’s cutting post-New Age observancy may just be “Time Bomb” and “Out of the Darkness.” The former is a snarling blues-soaked put down, populated with a series of perfectly placed, stinging little notes from Cropper. Meanwhile, May erupts into a series of molten outbursts on “Out of the Darkness,” moving with brawny determination across Dickinson’s fun Diddley beat.
Kalinich and Tiven were first heard together on “Everything’s Exploding” from 2011′s California Feeling, a collection of 20 Kalinich compositions performed by a gaggle of folks with Beach Boys connections — including Brian Wilson’s daughters Carnie and Wendy; David Marks, a founding guitarist with the Beach Boys; the Honeys, a 1960s-era girl group produced by Brian; and Dennis Wilson’s son Carl.
Kalinich’s relationship with the group goes back to a poem he wrote in the late 1960s called “Be Still” that was set to music by Brian Wilson. It was originally to be part of a spoken-word album produced by Wilson that was finished in 1969, but left unreleased until 2008 when Light in the Attic Records finally issued A World of Peace Must Come.
In 1968, a pair of songs Kalinich co-wrote with Dennis Wilson (“Little Bird” and “Be Still”) were issued as part of the Beach Boys’ Friends album. He later worked with Dennis on his 1977 solo effort Pacific Ocean Blue and on Brian’s Gettin’ in Over My Head in 2004.