The Green Pajamas – If She Only Knew EP

The Green Pajamas
If She Only Knew EP

Although it’s a truism that one grows weary of hearing, in many phases of life, timing really is everything. Just as every hanger-on punk was swept up when Green Day kicked the door of mediocrity wide open in 1994 and left a sea of wannabees to transform themselves into ska bands when No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones hit the Top 40 a few years later, now we find ourselves unfortunately inundated with vaguely talented garage rock bands who are trying to figure out a color motif that won’t infringe upon the red and white patterns of the White Stripes. Similarly, for the prolific neo-psychedelic popsters in the Green Pajamas, timing has proven to be their worst enemy. Releasing their first album in 1984, a good 15 years after their style of rock had faded from the limelight, they struggled through obscurity until finally getting their much-deserved props in the mid-1990s. Still, even as the Elephant 6 Recording Company made psych-pop cool again by the end of the decade, the Green Pajamas still hadn’t found much luck in turning their Beatle-isms into much more than good reviews. Honestly, it’s enough to make a band in their spot drop the harmonies and effects pedals and just turn up the distortion and re-make themselves as a garage band to cash in. Luckily, they haven’t done that.
A four-song EP, following only a year after their uniformly excellent This is Where We Disappear, the Green Pajamas offer more of their pristine melodies and dour sentiments with If She Only Knew. All the foundational elements in their sound (electric guitar, organs, harmonies) are fairly standard, their ability to continue to pull mysterious melodies out of the atmosphere, especially so far along in their career, is impressive. The opening title track serves as a fitting reminder of that fact, with an alternately William Hart by way of George Harrison hook and caustic imagery (and some odd references to the “living dead”) that sit nicely beside the canonized classics in the genre. Lead vocalist Jeff Kelly, himself having released an impressive set of solo records, has a voice that is perfectly suited for the dour arrangements. The pristine pensiveness of the elegantly wistful “Jessica Byron,” which features a chorus that makes the lyrical stretch of rhyming “Byron” with “find it,” follows along the same line, pairing a durably depressive melody with excellent harmonies and a throwback sensibility.
The hauntingly taunting “When You’re Good to Me” follows with a slyly mocking chorus of “Aren’t you a bad girl?” over a moody backdrop of restrained guitars. For the most part, the Green Pajamas avoid the normal pitfalls of psych-pop artists, namely the temptation to turn out pointless 10-minute jams that fail to impress those without copious amounts of mind-altering drugs in their system. The finale, a rare 2000 radio show performance of “Autumn Leaves,” nearly seeks to rectify that, as it breaks from the normal formula of aching and veers off into the realm of careening guitar solos over piano lines and doubles its length by tacking on a few minutes of gratuitous jamming. Not that it’s entirely unwelcome at that point in the set, but it also comes off as slightly unnecessary for a band whose strongest feature is their songwriting.
All in all, there isn’t much more you could ask of an EP. No doubt, the full impact of their talent is more easily felt over the course of a full-length release, but all of the elements that make them a standout act are present. Sadly, the Green Pajamas will probably never be the focus of a major label bidding war nor NME cover boys, but their track record of solidly constructed psychedelic pop releases has earned them every record sale and concert ticket sold. Their timing might not be great, but most of their music is.