The Last Mushrooms
Invasion of the Energy Spectres
~reviewd by Kevin Filan
The Last Mushrooms is part of Queasy Listening, a British art collective engaged in "guerrila distribution" and otherwise rallying against the "unresearched consumerism that pervades our adult taste centres." Taking cues from Aleister Crowley, H.P. Lovecraft, Austin Osman Spare and Kenneth Grant, they bring us "Invasion of the Energy Spectres," an uneven release which promises much and occasionally delivers.
"Panarchy in the UK" opens things up with an interesting vocal sample that develops into a repeated chant of "Rapture ... in England ... now," with an occasional choking quote of "Like a devil sick of sin" thrown in for effect. There is some interesting guitar and synthesizer interplay here, but ultimately things don't seem to go anywhere. The same problem befalls "Angels of Neurosis" and "Voice of Space." In each case the band starts with moderately interesting grooves, then fails to develop the theme. The chanted-through-a-sweatsock vocals have been done before (and done, and done, and done), and the namedropping of "William Blake ... William Shakespeare ... John Milton" and suchlike doesn't really add anything to the proceedings.
The band and CD names could have come straight out of a 60s Be-In. "Strange Transmissions" shows a strong psychedelic influence, with an excellent bass line that simultaneously pays homage to the groovy 60s, the funky 70s, and the drum-and-bass 00s. The bass and the jangly guitar provide a strong rhythmic and melodic hook. I'm not sure if this is intentional, but "Strange Transmissions" actually works as a pop song. On songs like "Witchcraft Man" and "Witchcraft," they even capture the marijuana-scented grandeur of Hawkwind and other prog-rock outfits, with sweeping electric guitars and solid power-ballad drumming. Remove the spoken word artist and put an operatic baritone up front, and Last Mushrooms could very well reinvent itself as a thinking man's Fields of the Nephilim. (I suspect they will be horrified by this suggestion... )
If I've seemed harsh in my assessment of Last Mushrooms, it's because I felt like at times they were slumming. They are unquestionably a technically competent outfit. I was particularly impressed by the elegaic cello/acoustic piano/guitar interplay on "A Rose in the Garden of the Midnight Sun." When I hear the crescendos on "Dunwich Tapes," I'm reminded of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Antarctica Symphony." And thus I can't help but be disappointed when I listen to "Amenta (Against All Odds)" and hear what is essentially a damned good knockoff of late-80s Ministry. The best material on here was very good, while even the worst was well-crafted and competently done. I would give this effort a solid B, and would look forward to hearing the next one. I'd also hope they take a few more creative risks next time. If you're going to release limited editions and strive for top quality without commercial worries, you might as well take chances.
Queasy Listening Website