Album Review: St. Johns Wood Affair – s/t

An offshoot of sixties collectors’ darlings Nirvana, this group features that band’s Keith Smart. He’s joined on some tracks by Pat Martin of Unicorn; the core group of players backs him up on most of the album. Writing swirling psychedelic songs in a style that evokes the days of old, the songs shimmer with lots of lovely ba-ba-ba vocals, dreamy rhythms, liquid-sounding lead guitar lines and such. “Electric Clouds” opens the album and sets in inviting sonic scene. “I Am You” will take you right back to 1967-68, with a healthy dose of bouncy Brit popsike. Its arrangement displays inventive variation.

The aural textures throughout the album are designed to evoke warm nostalgia for the Summer of Love, and they succeed in that mission. The group knows how to rock, too, as “Fantastic Book of Colours” proves; it feels a bit like Kula Shaker, which is never a bad thing. The album-proper features eight songs, all appealing. The set is appended with nearly as many bonus tracks (seven in all), including dmeo versions of several of the main album’s tunes. “Where is the Entrance to the Play” strips away the gentleness for a ‘90s-style Britpop raver. In contrast, a song named after the group (or vice versa) is the most retro-sounding cut on the set.

The demos are interesting enough, but most listeners are likely to prefer the finished counterparts. Oddly, one quite good demo, the Monkees-like “Centre of Your Universe” isn’t featured on the CD, but is included on the streaming version of the album. St. Johns Wood Affair is recommended to those who believe that the mid- to late-60’s featured the best music ever (though others will dig it as well).