Greg Ashley: Medicine Fuck Dream

Greg Ashley
Medicine Fuck Dream

No logrolling required: The only press release Greg Ashley needed for his debut album was a handwritten letter from Mom. "We are embarrassed that the word FUCK is directly associated with Greg Ashley's name on the Internet," the delicate cursive handwriting reads. "Millions can view the granddaddy of foul words in association with our name."

Still, someone should explain to Mrs. Ashley that removing the second word from Medicine Fuck Dream would be no sweat off the beast with two backs. Yes, her son delivers his delicately seductive near-whisper in praise of long legs, marijuana-fuelled trysts, and skin, skin, skin. But the epithet just reveals the title to be a stream of non sequiturs, not a declaration of lust or profanity. If anything, the four letters in the middle just describe the liberties Ashley's music takes with the cauliflower in your skull.

To borrow a phrase from a Shins song, Medicine Fuck Dream feels like a book you read in reverse, understanding less as the pages turn. In the first 60 seconds, horns drone a bumblebee buzz; drums bring the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" one step closer to cardiac arrrest; and, all the while, someone alternately giggles and screams in the background. But as the album slips into its beautifully sleepy Syd Barrett sound, the intro is revealed as a red herring, a way to weed out those listeners who can't pick up the echoes of The Madcap Laughs--or maybe it's just a way to "weed out" in general.

Ashley's psychedelic ballads move in that strange two-hours-become-two-minutes continuum you only discover when you're stoned, with fuzzy guitars that loop back upon themselves and lyrics that the ears understand before the brain does. Floating behind Santo and Johnny's 1959 classic "Sleepwalk," "Legs Coca Cola" finds its protagonist contemplating the dream life of mannequins on the date 2/87/1999. The lovely "Deep Deep Down" drifts through a slow, descending hook, again and again, as Ashley's wavering narrative rises from his lips only to disappear like a plume of smoke. The metaphysical weight of Robert Frost pushes through each reverberating melody: Even Ashley's cover of Hank Williams's "Lost Highway" turns country music's road-trip classic into a tale about ambling toward death. By the time shivery bells unravel the closing track's melancholy Far East melody on "Lisa Lisa" (not a Pauly Shore cover), the effect is so chilling you don't know how to respond to such ghostly resonance. Sorry, Ma. Sometimes, only curse words will do.

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