Blue-Eyed Son – Shadows on the Son EP (2013)

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When self-described SoCal “sonic surf smoke punk” band 40 Watt Domain imploded in the early 2000s, front man and songwriter Andrew Heilprin hit the beach. Literally.

Staring with 2004’s Lincoln LP, Heilprin released music under the moniker Blue-Eyed Son, all the while holding onto his day job as surf instructor. As any major surf dude will tell you, the sport combines appreciation of the profound beauty of nature with awareness of deadly riptides and lurking danger. That balance between attraction and dread permeates Blue-Eyed Son’s latest EP, Shadows on the Son.

Though Heilprin takes his nom de plume from the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Shadows on the Son is neither folk nor surf. Instead, Heilprin concocts a potent cocktail of jaunty Brit-pop, sun dappled psych and ‘70s country with just a touch of carbolic. The dreamy, spaced-out sensibility of Elephant 6 bands like Beulah is an obvious touchstone, as is Modest Mouse’s tuneful balance between exhilaration and apprehension. Yet, at its core, Shadows on the Son is a weirdly wonderful conflation of Harry Nilsson’s pop perfection and Ray Davies’ catchy neuroticism, all in the service of funny yet heartfelt lyrics shaded just this side of sardonic.

With bright chimes, and Big Easy horns, lead track “All Went Black” charts a bi-polar course between major buzz kill and a glimmer of hope. “Golden’s” tactile surrealism is almost hallucinogenic, with chipper nerdiness and crunchy Badfinger-style guitars supporting a dire warning about our toxic environment.

Latin-tinged percussion gives way to martial drums on “We’re Fighting a War,” which questions the battles of distraction we’re urged to fight because they pull focus from injustice on the home front. On the weirdly upbeat elegy “Good Men Die Like Dogs,” rambling banjo and sweet harmonies provide a touch of Americana that is less Mumfords than Muswell Hillbillies.

With a message pitched halfway between childlike wonder and caustic photorealism, final cut “Hold On” suggests the meditative magic of watching the rolling surf as the sun drops into the sea. With blissed-out pop drifting uneasily atop deep dark currents, Heilprin closes out his masterful EP on a comprised note of hope, reminding us that a world of beauty awaits us all — if we can just stop fucking it up.

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Patrick Moran

Patrick Moran

Chicago native Pat Moran is a filmmaker who has produced and written five feature films, and served as producer and editor for Western Classics, a film series hosted by actor James Best. He also writes about music for Creative Loafing Charlotte. The best job title he ever had was "part-time vampire." Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Patrick Moran
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