PICTURES OF THEN
PICTURES OF THEN AND THE WICKED SEA
On Pictures of Then’s 2007 debut, Crushed by Lights, the Minneapolis quintet seemed to be shining Billy Corgan’s flashlight through a 1966 Pink Floyd prism, projecting a gorgeous psychedelic pop rainbow across a Ziggy Stardust tour poster. The combination of PoT’s respect for the vintage past and desire for a modern future came together seamlessly in a soundtrack that was both vaguely familiar and engagingly fresh.
As telegraphed by the gorgeous New World-tinged woodcut illustrations adorning their sophomore album, Pictures of Then and The Wicked Sea, PoT spend a little more time perusing their sonic scrapbook of the past this time around while still remaining committed to indie rock’s vibrant here and now. The Wicked Sea’s opener, “A Glimpse of Dawn,” nods to Superdrag’s modern retro vibe in a perfect balance between pop delicacy and guitar bombast, which segues into “When It Stings,” a swinging soul/pop mind meld of early Kinks and later Spoon and continues into “The Big Sell,” a similar treatment that shivers and pounds like a Smashing Pumpkins tribute to the Pretty Things. Fans of the Shins and the 88s will find much to love on The Wicked Sea, from the gentle lilt of “Ahead” to the simple pop appeal of “7th Street,” and I defy anyone (Chris Martin, are you listening?) to write a more beautifully wrought love song than PoT’s “Nowhere is Somewhere,” which skillfully blends propulsive and balladic pop under a lovely, lyrical sentiment (“I’d rather go nowhere together than somewhere alone...”).
Pictures of Then is an amazing blend of reverent classicism and modern vision, and The Wicked Sea is loaded with glittering pop diamonds that are never showy, always tasteful and completely infectious.
--Brian Baker [July 6, 2009]