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The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound - Ekranoplan

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Artist: The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound

Album: Ekranoplan

Label: Tee Pee

Review date: Jun. 12, 2007

With Assemble Head sharing its Bay Area home base with Comets on Fire, and Ekranoplan also having been recorded by Tim Green, it's very tempting to dwell on the similarities between Comets' Avatar and this album. Both traffic in backwards-viewing, fuzz-heavy rock, unashamedly displaying debts to ’60s/’70s stalwarts from Blue Cheer to MC5, Neil Young to Spirit.

Naturally, that's taking the easy way out, but based on Ekranoplan, Assemble Head may find the comparison inescapable. Following their LP from 2005, this is the band's first widely-available album, and given its proximity to Comets on Fire's superb album, this trio had better get used to seeing the two names mentioned together.

On the other hand, Assemble Head are paradoxically both less chaotic and less melodic than their better-known brethren, plowing a line straighter and narrower. From the title track's initial blast of shouted vocals and massed guitars, they channel a Mudhoney-like riffage. But soon the psyched-out leads and, particularly, the theremin and organ chords hew to a Nuggets-esque path, though imbued with a post-grunge aesthetic.

"Mosquito Lantern" immediately leans toward a more open, reverbed psych-rock feel for its first half, perhaps bringing to mind Brian Jonestown Massacre, but then the band shift into heavy for some soaring guitar work that owes much more to Blue Oyster Cult if anyone – not a bad thing at all. From there on out, Assemble Head fill the 38-minute album – a very wise, ideal length – with shimmering organ, reverb’d guitar leads, solid rhythms, and heavy riffs. From the ’60s-throwback intro to "Rudy on the Corner" to the surprisingly catchy vocal harmonies of "D. Brown," the soaring leads of "Summon the Vardig" to the peaceful, floating closer "Gemini 9," Assemble Head cover a lot of bases with admirable consistency.

While "Occult Roots" is fairly pedestrian and "Message by Misral and Thunderclap" predictably alternates calm verses with heavy fuzz choruses, they're still solid and well-crafted. And yes, "The Chocolate Maiden's Misty Summer Morning" turns to layered acoustic guitars to channel Zeppelin in a slightly obvious way, but it's still nicely done.

With this debut, Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound make a solid argument for why a band need not worry incessantly about "originality" – who knows what that means these days, anyway. The band's influences couldn't be more obvious. But with a solid batch of songs that reward high-volume summer listening, that doesn't really matter.

By Mason Jones

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