The Rain Parade remain one of the best loved bands of the Los Angeles-based Paisley Underground scene of the 1980s – but there have been too few recordings since that feature co-founder Matt Piucci. The new album I Love You All The Animals is thus a long overdue and very welcome addition to the Piucci canon. He was the triple threat singer/songwriter/guitarist responsible for some of that band’s best-loved material, including “This Can’t Be Today” “What She’s Done To Your Mind” “Your Are My Friend,” “No Easy Way Down” and “Blue” - all indie-rock classics that he wrote or co-wrote and sang. We did get a taste in the summer 2016, a single by the supergroup Fir; “Summer Wasn’t There” (written by Beachwood Sparks’ Brent Rademaker) b/w “Winter Doesn’t Care” (penned by Piucci & his wife Stefanie Beltran). The Fir single features Piucci, Rademaker, BrianJonestown Massacre’s Rob Campanella, Nelson Bragg (Brian Wilson band) and guest vocals by the Allah La’s. It is also produced by & mixed by Jim Hill, who recorded the Rain Parade’s Explosions in the Glass Palace album and mixed and mastered this 2017 CD by the Hellenes. When the Rain Parade came to an end towards the end of the 80s, Matt played lead guitar for Neil Young’s legendary accompanists, Crazy Horse, “replacing” Neil for shows without Young, and contributing to the 1989 Crazy Horse album Left For Dead. Along the way, Matt collaborated with pals like Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina from the aforementioned Horse, Tim Lee of The Windbreakers and his former Rain Parade band mate Steven Roback. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that Matt released his debut solo album titled Hellenes, which has since morphed into his “band” project. The Hellenes record featured Roback and latter day Rain Parade guitarist John Thoman, as well as Grammy-nominated archivist Alec Palao on bass. Piucci subsequently worked with the band “boatclub,” whose personnel included Jon Anderson’s drummer Stephan Junca, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Hanley. These musicians now led by Matt, messrs Thoman, Palao, Hanley and Junca, all along with recent recruit Derek See (Gentle Cycle, Chocolate Watchband), constitute the Hellenes band, and their combined talents are showcased on this new album, with all new material from Piucci. I Love You All The Animals was recorded in the Bay Area over the past nine years, with occasional overdubs conducted in southern California studios. The basic track for “So Depressed” was cut by Piucci and Palao at Ardent Studios in Memphis, with special guest Jody Stephens of Big Star on drums (and Matt used Chris Bell’s famed Gibson guitar). Other contributors heard on I Love You All The Animals include Billy Talbot (Crazy Horse), Brent Rademaker (Beachwood Sparks / Gospel Beach), Nelson Bragg (of Brian Wilson’s band) and Jack Waterson (Green on Red). The album was expertly mixed and mastered in Burbank by soundtrack wizard Jim Hill, another former Rain Parade alumnus. Take a moment to put on this excellent CD and hear what I heard. The deep, lush soundscape on opening track “Chesterene” recall the edgier late 80s Rain Parade, mixed with Soft Machine-driven sax (by Erik Pearson of Mushroom). Vocally there’s a nod to the Beach Boys, spiced with a touch of math rock. “Fault” is the beautiful sound of a nervous breakdown, channeled through a Tom Verlaine-like guitar tone; it’s Piucci at his most ethereal. The title cut “I Love You All The Animals” suggests Eno in Brian Wilson’s sandbox, while “Beautiful Flower” filters Neil Young’s Crazy Horse via bright and shiny 1990s Brit-Pop - it would be a hit single in another universe. The closer “Water” is more piano from the sandbox, with Piucci at his most vulnerable. The Hellenes are active as a live act and will be promoting this new release with West Coast shows. As an aside, Piucci, Palao and See all currently serve in Woodstock legend Country Joe McDonald’s Electric Music Band, thereby bringing the whole psychedelic legacy around full circle from the 1960s to the 80s and into 2017. Having had a front row seat to Matt’s singing and songwriting since 1984, via the Rain Parade, solo projects and assorted off-shoots, I can say unequivocally that this new album stands amongst the best thing he’s ever done. With age comes wisdom, and wickedly wonderful songs!
Pat Thomas Los Angeles 2017