THE RED KRAYOLA Introduction (Drag City)

Mayo Thompson has been the lynchpin of The Red Krayola (a.k.a. The Red Crayola) for forty years now. Back in 1966 they were labelmates of The 13th Floor Elevators on Texas imprint International Artists. In 2006 they’ve recorded an album with the assistance of Tortoise’s John McEntire whose ostensibly ironic title might well prove to be well-founded, as “Introduction” does indeed make a pleasant primer to their work.

“Breakout” winds a gently wheezing accordion around “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, using it as the springboard for some rigorously intellectual theorising (or is it pseudo-scientific hogwash? I don’t feel qualified to tell the difference!) that All Music Guide reckons is about global warming. The gently jabbing samba of “Cruise Boat” sets sail upon a sea of nouns, as if Mayo is regurgitating pages of a dictionary. It plays like deliciously subversive muzak, although his repeated cocktail lounge croon of “Chechnya, Chechnya” must be one of the year’s most subtly unsettling musical moments. “Psy Ops” is a glorious downstairs tumble that sounds like an Americana reconstruction of early Fall, although closing couplet “Welcome to the punk rock supper club/Table for two in the corner” perhaps knowingly tips its hat towards The Television Personalities’ “Happy Families”. Similarly, the tubular belled conclusion of “It Will Be (Delivered)” sounds like an affectionate rip-off of The Who’s “A Quick One, Whilst He’s Away”.

“Puff” pursues the story of the titular magic dragon, taking up where its more famous predecessor ends, commercial as ants as Roky Erickson would have it. “Greasy Street” is slippery and supple, as if some prankster had slipped something lysergic into Dr John’s gumbo; Thompson’s repeated chant of what sounds like “OPEC, OPEC, OPEC” at its close suggests the exact identity of all this oiliness. The instrumental “Elegy” takes on the closing colours of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Sticking With You”, and “When She Went Swimming” is a thing of dappled, aquatic beauty.

If you were as disappointed with the heavy-handed last Flaming Lips album as I was, you might well find “Introduction” a sonic tonic. Always approachable, warm and welcoming, it nevertheless refuses to compromise its principles for a second. Cosmic American Music of a different stripe, definitely, and heartily recommended for it.