The ongoing Motorpsycho archaeology project, which began with a 4CD box set based on 1994 breakthrough album Timothy’s Monster, sidesteps the band’s detour into country rock with The Tussler to pick up the trail with 1995’s Blissard. This new 4CD set contains the original album plus contemporaneous EPs, stray cuts, studio experimentation, and an entire, previously unreleased album.
The expansive treatment seems entirely appropriate for Blissard, which is a real curate’s egg in its original form. It begins with a run of songs that rank among Motorpsycho’s most commercial. Thereafter it flirts with both grunge and instrumental epics, only to end on a downbeat note with a duet for voice and banjo, and a solo mood piece by Deathprod, aka producer/Motorpsycho auxiliary Helge Sten.
Still, for my money, Blissard is at least as good an album as Timothy’s Monster, and the expanded edition proves more essential than last year’s trawl through Timothy‘s archives. Not least because it includes When the World Sleeps, an album the band simply grew out of and canned in favour of the sessions that ultimately led to Blissard. I’ll come back to it.
There’s also the first version of Blissard, expensively recorded at Atlantis Studios in Stockholm and mixed by Pieter ‘Pidah’ Kloos, hence: The Pidah Mixes. This the band also canned, apparently because they detected in the “cassette dubs” of the final mixes (auditioned in a van, en-route home to Oslo) a “hi-fi lack of energy and dullness”.
Then there’s ‘The Atlantis Psychosis Files’ – 20 minutes of experimental self-indulgence, recorded at Atlantis while Pidah was busy mixing. Among these tracks are those included as ‘hidden’ bonuses on both Blissard and its eventual follow-up, Angels & Daemons at Play, which now need no CD rewind trickery to access.
Other odds & sods, which include a full-blooded romp through The Who’s “Heaven and Hell”, saw light of day on the Manmower and Nerve Tattoo EPs, the tracks of which are all present and correct.
There’s very little duplication of material across the four discs, but there is an early alternate take on album cut “Drug Thing”, which was recorded in a half-finished studio, two versions of “Mad Sun“, and three stabs at “Stalemate”, none of which made the cut for Blissard.
The band didn’t nail “Stalemate” until the final sessions for Angels & Daemons. Here it is as first recorded for the discarded When The World Sleeps album, and again for Blissard, mixed by Pidah but subsequently discarded. The final version incorporates elements from a track titled “That Dying Breed”, which is included here as part of a six-song sequence of proto-Blissard rehearsal tapes from 1995: tracks that were variously cannibalised or, in two cases, “simply forgotten”.
The Pidah version of Blissard is more coherent than the final release, with raw vigour (I obviously don’t hear it as the band did). It includes two dropped tracks – “The Matter with Her” and the Dinosaur Jr-like “Like Always” – that are strong melodically, and would’ve made decent singles (the latter did, in fact, in a version by Sanderfinger).
The comparative roughness of these mixes sometimes works in their favour. The Pidah mix of “The Nerve Tattoo”, for example, sounds better in some respects without the violins that graced the Blissard single version.
More important for Motorpsycho fans than these early Blissard mixes is the ‘lost’ album, When the World Sleeps, a thing unto itself, with a completely different vibe to Blissard. It’s a more brooding and arguably a more powerful album on the whole, with shades of Crazy Horse on “Flick of the Wrist”.
Of the three tracks here that made it onto EPs (“The Ballad of Patrick and Putrick”, “Mad Sun” and the home demo of “7th Dream”), the last two make for a diffuse ending to the album, despite “Mad Sun”‘s ramshackle vigour, which mirrors Blissard‘s mixed blessing ending; but the four unreleased tracks that make up it’s bulk are powerful stuff.
“The Ballad of Patrick and Putrick” is a narcotised grunge epic, shuffling from one instrumental chorus to another via mumbled vocal verses and strummed acoustic guitars. Best of all, a superb cover of tour-mates Alabama Kids’ “Black W’abbit” is a psych-rock monster that competes with Blissard‘s “S.T.G.” as the standout track of the whole collection.
Motorpsycho – Demon Box (expanded reissue).
Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkken: The Death Defying Unicorn + Bushman’s Revenge: A Little Bit of Big Bonanza.
Motorpsycho – Still Life With Eggplant.