Transient Songs – Plantation To Your Youth

Transient Songs
Plantation To Your Youth

I couldn’t find out very much about Transient Songs aside from the facts that there are two of them and that they originate from Seattle. John Frum and Jimmy Andrews are specialising in what is a heady mixture of classic 80s (I swore I’d never use the word but here it is) Shoegaze – the surf harmonies, the downtuned fuzztone guitar harmonics, and borderline psychedelia that evokes the weightier end of the mid 80s Folkrock scene that gave us The Long Ryders and The Rain Parade – and an inescapable and unmistakeable songwriting debt to REM, which for all (or perhaps because of) REM’s mainstream success throughout the 80s/90s and more recently, I don’t ever really recall hearing too many bands on whom REM were a noticable influence, and it’s taken my hearing Plantation To Your Youth to properly bring this to my attention.

So, if you think REM the great surreal countryfied stylists of the last two decades, would you necessarily appreciate Transient Songs? First track “Greenwood Backyards” is about a minute and a half of reverb laden semi-acoustic chords overlaid with keening mandolin and slide parts which, while its visceral energies recapture the machine grind of Snakedriver era JAMC, is really only an introduction to the title track, which both builds quite spectacularly on its abbreviated predecessor and displays some of the oblique lyrical touch of the best of REMs late 80s work. The song hangs around a great juddering wall-of-sound hookline that effortlessly evokes the orchestral grandiosity of pre-sandpit Brian Wilson, and the heavily layered production takes what is the most basic three chord structure to a quite staggering conclusion. Following on from this, “Southern City Saturdays” is most obviously the track which could slip unnoticed into an REM b-sides collection, a relatively more restrained acoustic based song. This is followed with “Locust Shells”, which has an undeniable late 60s feel to both its structure and instrumentation, shares the majestic production style of the title track, and takes a detour quite firmly into Scott Walker territories. Final track “Living With Decay” is also, there is little doubt in my mind, a quite definite echo of some of those lesser known Stipe/Buck/Mills/Berry compositions, REM being a very good example of the type of band whose work I think I know, and were the track released as a single today it might do something similar to what is my own favourite REM semi-obscurity, “Lotus”,which made #36 in the UK charts around a decade ago.

But all these comparisons probably won’t do much to please Transient Songs themselves: their hard-lived lyrics and dextrous musicianship really are entirely their own.