I don’t have a time machine, but if I want to go back a few decades I can just pop in Head of Femur’s third release, Great Plains. These Chicago residents have managed to transplant themselves and their music into the world where the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band exists. Dynamic and colorful, the sound evokes a complex aura of a very specific spot in history that may or may not have actually existed.
The title track’s psychedelic-twinged pop is energetic with lots going on, eventually devolving into controlled chaos. Several tracks boast a vocal style that is distinctly influenced by the sound coming out of Britain in the 60s, including the backing harmonies on “Whirlaway” and the delivery of “Where’s the Fire” and “Napoleon’s Boots”.
Further cementing my comparisons to 60s rock and pop, Great Plains contains the song “Open the Door Lucille”. With interludes of clapping and cheering, plinky piano, and references to a Lucille and a submarine, I would be highly surprised to find out this wasn’t a nod to the Beatles.
Mixing things up a little, Head of Femur does break the mold here and there. “Leader and the Falcon” has a shimmying, 70s rock feel spiked with bits of indie and electropop. “River Ramble” is what I assume (from my limited knowledge of their oeuvre) the Dire Straits would sound like if they had formed today, and the tambourine-shaking, hand-clapping, sax-soloing “Jetway Junior” makes you want to drive with the top down in some sunny locale.
Though the album draws on several well-established sounds and styles, it doesn’t come off as an imitation or a recycled attempt at the glory days – there’s still something original and unique about it.