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The Tear Garden – The Brown Acid Caveat


The Tear Garden - The Brown Acid CaveatAh, The Brown Acid Caveat. We’ve all heard of it, though not necessarily by name. Delivered over the PA at Woodstock, it was an exhortation to avoid a particular type of tab that was doing the rounds. Probably well-meaning, it almost certainly led to a huge amount of freakouts among people who up until then had been tripping away merrily on that self-same acid. That blend of good nature and darkness seems ideally suited to The Tear Garden, the long-running collaborative project between Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots and cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy. Dark psychedelia with a sense of humour and compassion? Yeah, sounds about right.

It opens, as it should, with a rush. “Strange Land” is, for want of a better combination of words, industrial spacepop, like a denser, more layered New Order or a tripped-out Depeche Mode, with Ka-Spel delivering what amounts to a psychedelic travelogue complete with the wonderfully prosaic musing “if I had to do it all again, I’d wear my better shoes”. The Brown Acid Caveat covers a lot of space in its running time, from the minimalist banjo loop of “Object” to the sombre pulsing of “Stars On The Sidewalk”, which is only a few overdriven guitars away from being a more pensive and brooding Nine Inch Nails.

Though it’s hard to make comparisons, really, when you’ve got Edward’s utterly distinctive delivery as a constant reminder of exactly who this is. By turns cruel, amiable, awestruck and confused, he gives us what is in essence a whole bunch of stories. Like (unexpected references ahoy!) Bruce Springsteen or New Model Army‘s Justin Sullivan, he’s a master of narrative songwriting, with as many nods back to the New Wave SF of the ’60s as to its chemicals. Nowhere more so than on “Lola’s Rock”, a charmingly Ballardian (and that’s not a phrase you get to use often) tale of Russian astronomers, Armageddon and that feeling when the asteroid that bears your name might just end up being the one that wipes out civilisation. He also gives us the nightmares of children (“Kiss Don’t Tell”), the horrors that can hide in a marriage (“Seven Veils”) and biological weapons (“Sinister Science”).

The humanity of Ka-Spel and the sheer mechanical onslaught of Key combine to make something you feel like you should be able to drop onto a tab and stick on your tongue. And at times it sounds like you already have. Take whichever acid you want, or don’t. The Brown Acid Caveat is strong enough medicine on its own.

-Justin Farrington-

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