A good time is always guaranteed whenever lending the ears to the sounds of the Squires of the Subterrain, which is actually an alias for a single-man band conducted by Christopher Earl. Hailing from New York, the greatly admired singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has been spinning sonic gold on a regular basis for more than twenty years, and has also cut discs in collaboration with 1960s British Invasion legend Pete Miller aka Big Boy Pete.
The latest offering from the paisley-pierced professor is simply called The Squires of the Subterrain (Rocket Racket Records) and witnesses to be yet another animated adventure awash with dandy doodles and designs. Revelations abound, and not only do these maddeningly melodic tunes satisfy the audio senses, but they bend the mind and seize the soul.
Despite the buoyant demeanor steering the majority of songs, not all is roses and rainbows in the world of the characters the Squires of the Subterrain sings about. The effects of war, an addiction to liquor, and romantic loss are some of the themes addressed. A poetic quality, rich with wit and observational intelligence, fuel the material.
The sharp cry of brass instruments, combined with strolling rhythms and springy harmonics provide tracks like “History,” “This Charming Place,” and “Private Gherkin’s Psychedelic Silly Mustache Band” with a shimmery symphonic pop feel, where the bleary-eyed buzz of “Happy Ending” squeals and squawks to a lysergic lure of backwards looping. Peppered with slinky slide guitars, “The Widows” brings together sleepy blues moves with a touch of tasty Hawaiian cuisine to a compelling conclusion, and “Jet-Black Sunrise” sends off a moody hypnotic vibe.
Captained by nifty nasal-infected vocals reflecting a cross between Ray Davies of the Kinks and Joey Levine of the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express, The Squires of the Subterrain additionally namechecks the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Apples in Stereo, the Banana Splits, XTC, and the Spongetones. A lot of cool piano playing, ranging from vaudeville styled tinkling to stately passages, is heard on the disc as well, not to mention imaginative curves and catchy hooks.
A seamless blend of psychedelic exploration and giddy pop perspectives prompt The Squires of the Subterrain to be a fun and exciting collection of songs performed with a heartfelt honesty. that will still ring true decades from now. The Squires of the Subterrain is a master of his craft, and is highly commended for his commitment to the genre.