From The Desk Of Kristian Hoffman: Tages’ “Studio”

Kristian Hoffman and Lance Loud met in high school back in the early ’70s in Santa Barbara, Calif. After starring in PBS cinéma-vérité documentary An American Family, they formed the Mumps, moved to New York and shared Max’s and CBGB stages with all the legends of the punk/new-wave explosion of 1976: Television, the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. Hoffman and Loud also had front-row seats for the Mercer Arts Center incubation of the New York Dolls, before that. In our book, that grants you unlimited license to open the floodgates. Fop (Kayo), Hoffman’s latest solo album, is an ornate masterpiece of baroque pop, well worth your attention. Hoffman will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new Q&A with him.

Hoffman: Legendary producer/masterer Bill Inglott and several other usually reliable record collectors spent much of the ’90s trying to convince me and reissue producer (Village Green Preservation Society! The Left Banke comp! The first three Bee Gees LPs!) and fabulous songwriter Andrew Sandoval that Sweden’s Tages were an “important” band, which in our code of twee-pop patois meant they were possibly a Kinks-ish, Small Faces-ish, Beatles-ish or, at the very least, Monkees-ish combo, which would reveal some heretofore undiscovered groovy, sonic, bubble-psych pleasures.

But upon examination of their then-currently-available CD reissues, there was very little to charm or beguile. Just some sub-par, resolutely rote skiffle-by-numbers, along the lines of the bizarrely disappointing pre-ABBA efforts of the Hep Stars, from which no seer could have possibly foretold the canon that would be the most heroin-addictive of all hook-meisters to come. In fact seemingly the most interesting thing about Tages was that they had apparently taken their name from a founding prophet of the Etruscan religion.

It seemed like one more ENC (Emperor’s New Clothes) moment foisted upon the ear by collectors so desperate for the next Forever Changes that they would dig an ’80s reissue of the American Breed out of the gutter and pretend it was the pre-incarnation of Revolver and not a minor effort of marginal allure.

Then came Studio. I first heard it when a friend of mine lent me an (uh oh, illegal?) download of it, and then I put a search on eBay, and within less than a year had a clean vintage copy of the gatefold album to hold in my quivering hands. And finally I got my own legitimate CD reissue (with delightful extra tracks), so as you can see, “illegal” downloading never stops me from getting my not-very-disposable income into the hands of the artist or whomever is “legitimately” ripping them off.

There is much talk of abusing the Sgt Pepper euphemism when one is trying to suggest whichever album by a particular artist is their most sonically adventurous, pop-psychedelic and ambitious in scope and tone. But I find it a useful tool to describes masterpieces as disparate as God Bless Tiny Tim, We Are Ever So Clean by the Blossom Toes and Indiscreet by Sparks. It’s just shorthand for saying the accomplishments are remarkable, the sound is adventurous and the music is indelibly hooky. So if I may be allowed that conceit, Studio is Tages’ Sgt Pepper, despite the protestations of some journalists who inexplicably call it Swedish folk rock!

It’s got Pretty Things-style riffs, McCartney piano pop, great backing vox, the catchiest statutory rape song this side of Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl” (“Like A Woman”), crazy orchestrations done to puerile psych poesy (“People Without Faces”), “Semi-Detached”-era Manfred Mann soundalikes (“I Left My Shoes At Home”), uber-Swedish gender-bending with backward guitar (“She’s A Man,” as seminal as “She’s A Soldier Boy” by New Generation but not quite as brazen as Fickle Pickle’s “Wilfred The Homosexual Stoat”). In fact, the album is sort of a one-man Swedish “Great British Psychedelic Trip.” And the bonus tracks include great Idle Race/Hello Goodbye hybrid “There’s A Blind Man Playing Fiddle” and the earthy organ raga of “Fantasy Island.” Just a smorgasbord of playful, Brit-inflected pop psych! Skål! Buy the album here.

Video after the jump.