Album Review: Pink Neighbor — ‘Time Beach Universe’

The brightly illustrated Peter Max-influenced pop-art cover of Time Beach Universe, the debut album from Grinnell band Pink Neighbor, gives us a pretty good idea of what lies within. But, it’s not all tangerine trees and marmalade skies — it’s a perfect pastiche of the full variety of 1960s party pop.

The neighborly tone of the record is set at the opening, with the appropriately named “Welcome,” a mission statement wrapped up in a 40-second campfire sing-along. “Welcome to the party, let’s put our minds together and off we go, my friend!”

Then we’re instantly in rocketship liftoff in the form of the distorted guitar riff opener of “Words Are Never Enough.” A Badfinger-esque jam, the combination of electric guitar and acoustic is a time-proven song propellant that lifts the listener to quintessential track three, “Nebula.” No ’60s-influenced record would be complete without a tribute to a dance move. “Do the Nebula!” is shouted Fred Schneider-style over a groove that would make his bandmates in the B-52s get down at the shack.

“Wait ’til we collide / to do the Nebula! / Bring it in all together now / Do the Nebula / Get down with your neighbor now / to do the Nebula / Shake your arms and float it on out …” The pace picks up until its big choral climax, and the frantic dancers on the floor can then appreciate the dramatic slow-down in the form of track four, “Not Gonna Hide It” — a bluesy, harmony-drenched, Dusty-in-Memphis track with an impressive, soulful chorus delivered by Katie In.

Tracks five and six work as a couplet of swinging spacey themes. “Green Light Nights,” a song about Pink Neighbors’ party spot, mixes chiming, clean guitars and surf guitar runs to make a great transition to the album’s sole instrumental, “Ursula’s Fingers.” The reverb-y guitars and stabbing Farfisa organs provide what should be the soundtrack to some long-lost go-go dancing Martian beach party movie. The chorus of “ohs” remind me of David Axelrod’s ’60s albums.

“Out On The Block” follows — a slow, slinky heat dream describing a summer block party. “Out on the block, summertimes steppin’ in / Bring what you got, everyone’s comin’.” The harmonies remind me of “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To the Canyon)” by the Mamas and the Papas.

Time Beach Universe is a short record, clocking in at just 25 minutes, but the final track, “Meet Me Somewhere,” wraps all the way around again, with its loping Rhythm Ace beat, synths and anthemic sax solo. During my repeated listenings, I began to anticipate the “Welcome” again from my new neighbors as I started the ride over.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 273.

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