Joe Wong – Nite Creatures
I’m not entirely sure who the audience is for this, today in 2020. Expertly presented, well-written & played – it may work well attached to a film or video but not as strong as the best progressive rock of the late 60s, early 70s.
It clearly aims at ears seeking nostalgia. It’s effectively trippy & tries to cover a lot of ground. There are moments when it suggests the early psychedelia of Pink Floyd, the Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” & dives in where pretentious hippie psychedelia died.
This music had its cool lava lamp slurp & kaleidoscopic visions, but it also attracted green apples dipped in sugary red syrup. You have to wade through some well-played musical tackiness to find its validity.
The 34-minute Nite Creatures (drops Sept 18 – Decca/Universal) is the debut of Milwaukee-born, LA musician Joe Wong (drums/bass/guitar/keyboards/vocals), a composer behind Netflix pieces where these types of sonic illusions work. Influences? The PR cites Scott Walker (not close), Love (not as creative), the Zombies (no idea what they’re thinking here), & Fairport Convention (no connection).
This music is bombastic hallucinogenic lite music: think solo Syd Barrett, snippets of Stackridge, Beatles (in their Revolution #9 / Blue Jay Way days), & Jade Warrior. The melodies stir in baroque, rock, folk, techno, electronica, symphonic with often processed vocals. Too many ingredients to maintain a viable tasty jambalaya.
“Shadow of the Year,” suggests a composition of Beatle-Esque melody smeared with The Pretty Things. The recording doesn’t allow a clear deciphering of Wong’s lyrics. Good horns at the end — buried in the morass. This may be the best cut, but it’s not mixed well.
The opener “Dreams Wash Away,” is engaging. A full-24-piece orchestra gives the melody lift. Wong sings well but trippy-dippy. The drums are good, but nothing as dynamic as the progressive rock drummers: King Crimson’s Mike Giles, or Bill Bruford, etc.
Nonetheless, Wong does a fine job.
“Sleeping,” is like a Syd Barrett outtake. “Day After Day,” & “Nite Creatures,” (very Shawn Phillips in tradition) have good Wong vocals but the Amazing Blondell-Pearls Before Swine baroque treatments & spacey lyrics – it gets old fast.
With Joe are Mary Timony (guitar/vocals), Steven Drozd (drums/guitar), Mary Lattimore (harp), & Jon Natchez (flutes).
“Always Alone,” has a dynamic — sparkling performance & antiquated progressive rock guitar tone.
Is this a bad album? No, not at all. It’s just precarious to dip into a bowl of old recipes that worked once years ago & many times didn’t. “Minor,” succeeds. A powerful production rooted firmly in prog rock. These can be reminders of how dramatic this music can be & how silly some were.
Sometimes – it’s just not rock music. This one is for selective tastes with a sense of humor.
Produced: Mary Timony & James Wong. Available: https://www.joewong.org/