THE APPLES IN Stereo inhabit a musical world arrested somewhere between early 1965 and mid-1966, those magical couple of years when the Beach Boys grew a brain and the Beatles hadn't yet succumbed to the loonier side effects of psychedelics. More so than their Elephant 6 cohorts, the Apples explore the gentle, earthbound aspects of psychedelia in a lovely rock skewed toward the sort of tripped-out slices of daily experience found on Rubber Soul and Revolver.
Their latest, Her Wallpaper Reverie, is a bit more ambitious, a rock opera with the compact arc of sitcom (its running time is a hair over 27 minutes). The narrative information is vague, and often dispersed only through the titles of its brief instrumental cuts, such as the scene-setting, 11-second piece "Her Room Is a Rainy Garden." With the exception of works by Prince Paul and a few other narrative geniuses, one does best to ignore the story line in these kinds of trips and just enjoy the sonics. But what little narrative sticks to Her Wallpaper is enough to warrant closer attention. The fact that the music is so breezy--with Pet Sounds harmonies and a Technicolor panoply of handclaps, keyboards, and playful sound effects--makes this no chore at all.
As far as I can tell, Reverie begins as a concept album about moping around your bedroom with the radio on--one of the great, if uncelebrated, rock 'n' roll subjects. The first lyric of the album, from "Shiney Sea," has the album's heroine Ruby complaining, "I would do anything to be anywhere else," before deciding to take "a trip on a stereo song/Drifting along with the radio on." On "Ruby" a friend (or a lover) shows up to commiserate, with lead Apple Robert Schneider singing his plaint, "Troubles, they carry you around from the crib into the ground/They will never sit you down," before downshifting into the ineffable with a lazily gorgeous "hmm...la-la-la." But Ruby is too wrapped up in her wallpaper reveries to respond. ("Ruby, if you'd like to think out loud, it'd really help me out/Are you listening?")
From there Her Wallpaper Reverie turns its attentions to the joys and pains of loving someone you can't talk to. Schneider realizes the futility of verbal communication ("Everything I say falls away like the fade on the radio song") and snuggles up to Ruby. And when the record climaxes with the inspirational "Benefits of Lying (With Your Friend)," he essays the fruits of wordless companionship before confronting the discomfiting truth--sung repeatedly for a full minute--that "I'll never know you like you know yourself/You'll never know me like I know myself." Then, as the title of the last instrumental passage notes, "Together They Dream into the Evening." It's a fine closer for this intimate gem of a minialbum, which is no Tommy to be sure, but takes as much care with its two-person, one-act, rock 'n' roll play, as any Who-dunit.
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