Like most of the bands implicated in the West Coast psychedelic revival (the paisley underground, if you will), Rain Parade has a better ear for style than for substance. Most of the genre’s bands tend to make very deft, subtle music but have nothing to say; Rain Parade at least knows the nuances of form better than anyone else. And if the Velvet Underground-meets-the Lemon Pipers pop sound tells more about who they like than who they are, at least the Paraders have good taste.
Emergency Third Rail Power Trip is a gentle record with neatly crafted songs and mildly trippy textures. However, the retreat into style discourages listener identification and, while the songs make good background music, as foreground they’re a snore. Explosions in the Glass Palace is a somewhat misleading title: there are, in fact, no explosions on this five-song EP. But the sound is filled out and less generic. The record has a dreamlike quality — where the band once sounded lethargic, it now waxes hypnotic. The psychedelic touches, rather than offering a running historical narrative filled with inside jokes, give the pop structures some depth. Not a glandular jolt, but a nice quiet listen. (Explosions is included on the Emergency Third Rail CD.)
The live-in-Japan Beyond the Sunset (originally released in Japan as Behind the Sunset — that’s geography for you), which introduces a new drummer as well as a replacement for guitarist David Roback, is a mite redundant — five songs are from the two previous discs, with three more originals and covers of Television and Green on Red — but not badly executed.
Crashing Dream, Rain Parade’s major label debut, has one simply beautiful song (“Depending on You”). Another (“Mystic Green”) sounds uncannily like the Records, while “Don’t Feel Bad” hybridizes two Beatles songs (you figure out which ones). The album is attractive but flimsy — competent technique in search of a spine and a direction. In other words, it sounds like the work of a band on the verge of breaking up — which, in fact, Rain Parade did not long after the album’s release.
With David Roback off to lead, in turn, Opal and Mazzy Star, his bass-playing brother (joined by another Rain Parade alumnus, guitarist John Thoman, and several sidemen) reemerged at the helm of Viva Saturn. The eponymous five-song 12-inch — a relaxed, wistful and intermittently rocking disc — finds him mining familiar musical territory in an unselfconscious continuation of his former band’s good work.
While the Rain Parade was still a going concern, David Roback organized and produced Rainy Day, a heartfelt but uneven paisley underground supersession, with members of the Bangles, Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade covering their fave tunes by the Velvets, Bob Dylan, Alex Chilton, Jimi Hendrix, Who, Beach Boys, etc. The simple arrangements and enthusiastic readings are fine-to-sublime, but the casual vocal performances are occasionally one-take second-rate.
As a bizarre but not entirely inappropriate postscript, Rain Parade guitarist Matt Piucci went on to record an album with Neil Young’s sometime band, Crazy Horse.