The Junipers – Paint The Ground, a review and an apology

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I think I owe the Junipers something of an apology. A couple of years back a friend of mine raved about the debut album, so I bought the CD and played it – probably only twice. Then a little while later I saw the band supporting Spearmint at the ICA. Except I didn’t pay them a great deal of attention as I was busy propping up the bar.

So I was more than little surprised when I got sent the band’s latest EP, the marvelously titled Euphonious Trolley, to review for a magazine and feel head over heels in love with it. While it is heading for pastiche territory – which is why perhaps the band chose to issue it kind of under pseudonym – the quality of the songs is incredible. And In My Dreams, which kicks off with a lovely Revolver style guitar burst sounds so good it could be an outtake from the first Orgone Box album, while Oh Gilbert, I Need Help, (I want to write a song like Jet) is as perkily tuneful as many of the songs it musically (and lyrically) references.

‘Maybe they should shelve their serious stuff for a while and focus on this – it is what they were clearly born to do,’ I wrote.

Except that after writing the review I went out and checked out their second album Paint The Ground and immediately felt like a bit of a chump.

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Originally issued as a download, though it has just come out on vinyl courtesy of the fine folks at Sugar Bush, Paint The Ground isn’t just The Junipers’ masterpiece, it is one of the best psych albums issued in this country in the last decade. If you ever loved the more gentle side of The Teenage Fanclub, or maybe even Shack and especially their Here’s Tom With The Weather classic you will find so much to swoon over here.

It starts innocently enough with a slightly throwaway tune called Look Into My River, but then comes the first nugget the stunning Dandelion Man. By the time you get to track three though Willow and the Water Mill, the band have packed their picnic headed off into the English countryside and crafted a gorgeous piece of pop that’s part English folk and part the autumnal early 70s stuff that pops up on some of the Fading Yellow compilations. Accordion intro, gentle acoustic guitars, whispered vocals it really is stunning. If anything, In My Reverie which follows is even more fragile. That is until a striking guitar break and some heavenly harmonies in the fade.

By the time you hit side two (that sounds so good doesn’t it!) there’s a semi-instrumental track called Antler Season whose wistful guitars recall both The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and the contemporary band most indebted to them The Clientele.

Gem after gem follows until the needle hits the run out groove after a Notorious Byrd Brothers inspired finale Pearly Home. If you like The Byrds, Shack, or the gentler side of psychedelia you really have to hear this.

Here’s hoping it won’t be too long before they deliver a follow up.

Get the vinyl here.

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