The Dylans’ flower-power pop offers little clue as to the point of the group’s name; all they share with Robert Zimmerman is the undefined spirit of the ’60s. Formed in Sheffield, England, in 1988, the quintet — led by singer/guitarist/bassist Colin Gregory and guitarist Jim Rodger — took the blueprint of groups like the Soft Boys and The Teardrop Explodes and used it to build an acid house with a strong song foundation. Unfortunately, the Dylans were caught in an unreceptive era between their precursors and the later commercial breakthrough of Oasis, Blur and Supergrass.
The four-track Godlike EP introduces the band in a beckoning swirl of Moody Blues harmonies, Byrdsy guitars and subtle grooves. The densely produced songs have busy arrangements but boast a certain liquidity. “My Hands Are Tied” has a nicely ascending chorus, but the other songs blur together.
Having dropped their musical acid, the Dylans needed to get moving on their trip, which they did on The Dylans. The harmonies sparkle like psychedelic Stones, and songs like the opening “She Drops Bombs” have the melodic sinew to justify the Dylans’ nostalgia. “Planet Love” boasts seamless, echoed vocals and an unfolding hook; even tunes like “Sad Rush on Sunday,” with its cock-rock chord changes, does something undeniably fresh and catchy.
Produced by Pascal Gabriel, Spirit Finger achieves a remarkable synthesis of power pop and psychedelia, an early herald of Britain’s imminent ’60s-pop revival. Combining fuzzy guitars, stinging choruses and effects-laden vocals, the sextet proves that psychedelic bubblegum still hasn’t lost its flavor. The album recalls the Soft Boys, Dukes of Stratosphear, The Teardrop Explodes — even early Pink Floyd. “Smarter Than You” begins with a slight concession to American alternarock, then leaves its grunge cocoon to becomes a pop butterfly of amazing sonic color. “Hell No” isn’t only a frank response to a lover’s insatiable demands-in the Dylans’ resin-stained vision, it becomes druggy power pop. “Get It Together” and “Live in the Now” further serve to lace the band’s benign nostalgia with a potent sprinkling of ’60s truisms; “Two Tomorrows” doubles the psychedelic dosage of vintage John Lennon and “Kill Rave” shows the group’s disdain for the trendy dance subculture.
The EP contains Spirit Finger‘s “Grudge” and “Wise Bird,” adding a pair of self-produced new tunes: “Nerve Hutch” and “Particle Ranch.” Although they’re overlooked now, it’s likely that someday people will be looking for the new Dylans.