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Music Review: Plastic Yellow Band – ‘Breathe Air’

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plastic yellow breatheOn an initial couple of listens, it’s a little hard to figure quite what to make of Plastic Yellow Band.

As the musical brainchild of South Carolina’s Gerald Jennings, it is possible the songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, lead singer and producer behind Plastic Yellow Band wears his influences a little too proudly on his sleeve on the independently released Breathe Air.

Fortunately, they are good ones.

Besides, Jennings himself would likely be the first to cop a guilty plea there. He describes Plastic Yellow Band’s sound as carrying on “the tradition of an era when music wasn’t considered authentic unless it was composed and played by musicians.” So, in the spirit of that mission statement, you could probably best label Plastic Yellow Band as “New Classic Rock.”

Speaking of spirits, the ghost of John Lennon looms large here, with the band name in particular being a rather obvious nod to Lennon’s imagining of the constantly evolving – and revolving – group of musicians (Plastic Ono Band) he assembled with Yoko Ono for his earliest post-Beatles projects. The Lennon influence shows up often in the music as well, most notably on tracks like “Nowhere,” which sounds like nothing so much as a Rubber Soul era hybrid, crossing musical and lyrical boundaries that lie somewhere between “Nowhere Man” and “Norwegian Wood.”

On the very next track, “Nervous Enough,” Jennings detours down the psychedelic rabbit hole of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” complete with the prerequisite backward tracked guitars. He even references the chorus of “All You Need Is Love.” Oddly enough, it all works, mostly because Jennings heart is clearly in the right place. Not surprisingly, Jennings and his Plastic Yellow bandmates cut both “Nervous Enough” and “Climate Change” at Abbey Road studios.

Elsewhere on the album, you can hear bits and pieces of everything from the 1960s psychedelia of obscure San Francisco bands like It’s A Beautiful Day (trippy sounding violins flavor a number of tracks like “She Let It Down”); to the modern-day regal prog of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree (speaking of musical collectives revolving around a single creative center).

So while the songs on Breathe Air do sometimes tend a bit toward the derivative, the overall strength of the music – not to mention the heartfelt sincerity of its creator and the other players involved – makes for a very welcome sounding blast of psychedelic-prog fresh air, from this New Classic Rock collective.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.