Record Review: Trees – Sleep Convention DLX RM [part 3]

Dane Conover of Trees

[…continued from last post]

As usual, side two track one, was another of the potential singles that should have been burning up the charts of stations beyond WLIR-FM or KROQ-FM. “11:00 A.M.” was one of the songs that in demo form secured Dane Conover his recording contract with MCA. This was a glorious popsong with soaring synth melodies sitting atop motorik Krautrock urgency at its finest. When he dropped into the studio for a month with Earle Mankey engineering to make this album, Conover sure didn’t waste anybody’s time and money. This one should have been a top 20 hit if there were any justice.

The mood and tempo shifted dramatically for the pensive and semi-psychedelic “Wildwood,” named for Mankey’s studio at the time. The heavily chorused, delayed vocals drifted like vapor though the song and the marimba really takes it places. Also the attention to detail in recording rainstorm foley effects in the studio’s shower instead of using an effects library made for a more vibrant experience. I also loved how they recorded Dane letting the cat in from the rain on the fade. Duly crediting him with “sliding glass door.”

The next track was a real change of pace with the loose, almost goofy track, “India.” While every other song on “Sleep Convention” is immaculately realized and arranged, this one seems like a demo in comparison. It almost seemed like Conover might have improvised this one in the studio. The utterly straightforward lyrics [all of the other songs are much more nuanced] simply convey how much the singer wished to travel to India over a simple electropop music bed; with rhythm box and rich interjections of roto toms courtesy of drummer Martin Eldridge. It’s the only track here that feels like it could have been a B-side, but at a succinct 3:00, it works the middle of side two capably enough.

“Gotta Moon” blended synths, acoustic guitars and some gloriously loose slide guitar for a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of a song that I am still trying to parse. Conover’s ad-libbed cackle in the fadeout captured the reckless energy of this song rather effectively. Then the original album concluded with “Red Car;” a masterclass in writing a song based on the nuclear anxiety so prevalent in the early 80s.

The track opened with a cinematic southwest gust of wind over a methodical, if foreboding, drumbeat with lightly strummed acoustic guitars and airy synths setting the mood. Geri Mankey added her celestial backing harmonies to it all as Conover built up a sense of awe and dread as the narrative laid out an atomic test in the mid-50s. Expert detail cheek by jowel with expansive metaphor conveyed the storyline beautifully, and the moment where Conover delivered the lines below, as delicately as possible, was utterly chilling.

“Some guys in advanced artillery,
They already saw this thing,
They told me it’s gonna put this world at ease” – “Red Car”

Then the refrain “bombs away – underground” was followed by an portentous synth riff loop that perhaps indicated that Dane was conversant with Philip Glass. That inexorable  riff ended the song with an echo fade; a perfect metaphor for the crushing tension of the Cold War. The liner notes indicate that the song was originally much longer before the thought was to trim it down. Too bad for us! It took technopop into the realms of the movie “Atomic Cafe” for a brilliant use of 50s nostalgia to reveal just how far we hadn’t come in nearly 30 years of missile waving and chest beating.

Next: …Bonus Round!

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Record Review: Trees – Sleep Convention DLX RM [part 3]

  1. Vlad says:

    Oh yes, “Red Car” is the masterpiece of this album! Truly a hair-raising and enchanting song that only also-rans like Trees seemed to be able to do. It stood out even on a crappy low bitrate mp3 version – but to hear it in high definition was outstanding.

    Don’t remember much of the album, though (with the exception of “Shock of the new”). Have to give it a listen then :)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – The alt version of “11:00 A.M.” on the CD is The Bomb! The arrangement makes a good song spectacular! It really sounded like a blueprint for Blaine Reininger’s wonderful “Mystery + Confusion” but remember that no one heard this version that pre-dated that song by two years, until last year! And even so, “Mystery + Confusion” only hints at the majesty of sound here.


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