Nice scanning job, huh?
Listen – Another Time – MP3
This’ll be a relatively quick one, as the family is preparing for a short getaway and things need to be done (of the non-blog variety).
The name Curt Boettcher looms large in the world of Sunshine Pop. He was the co-leader of Sagittarius (as much as any non performing studio project has a “leader”) and the mastermind behind the Millennium.
My history with Boettcher’s oeuvre has been a touch and go affair for many years. Though I initially found much of his work almost sugary sweet (I’ve heard it described as “cloying”), a deeper listen reveals that Boettcher was both a talented songwriter and a craftsman in the studio.
I guess the problem is that – to borrow an awful mid-70’s self-actualization turn of phrase – your head has to be in the right place to “get” Sagittarius and Millennium.
The problem is not that Boettcher’s work is bubblegummy – and it is at times, but no more so than any mid-60’s pop musician – but that it is occasionally so light and dreamy that it seems in danger of catching the breeze and blowing away. Listening to some of the songs on ‘Present Tense’ and the Millennium ‘Begin’ LP, it’s sometimes jarring how far removed this music is from ‘rock’.
While many UK bands were mining some of the same territory, few of them, even at their most baroque, twee and precious were able to approach Boettcher’s Percy Faith on acid vibe. There’s almost (for lack of a better word) a naivete at work (the same kind of vibe I get from Free Design) that moves between childlike and childish, and really requires multiple listens to reveal the complexity beneath the surface. Boettcher’s melodies are marked by a sophistication that isn’t always well served by the sometimes thick layers of strings and angelic backing vocals.
Listening to some of the tracks on ‘Present Tense’, there is the initial temptation to say what Boettcher and Gary Usher were creating was little more than a highly polished, ‘younger’ twist on syrupy, orchestrated pop, but the more you listen, the more it becomes obvious that there’s something deeper at work here. Not hugely deeper, but deeper nonetheless.
There are those that would line up Boettcher next to someone like Brian Wilson, but with all of his faults, I find Wilson – over the long haul – to be a much more interesting songwriter and producer. However, there are moments in Boettcher’s comparatively brief discography where he created exquisite pop records.
One of these is today’s selection, ‘Another Time’, the lead off track (and I believe the first single) from ‘Present Tense’. The song sports one of Boettcher’s most memorable melodies, with a bit at the end of the chorus that is absolute perfection. I love the way the arrangement builds in waves from the quietest plucking of harp strings to a shimmering wall of sound built with layer after layer of vocals.
Sundazed has done excellent reissues of ‘Present Tense’ and ‘Begin’, with the Millennium set bordering on the ridiculously comprehensive with a wealth of outtakes, and tracks by Boettcher’s earlier groups.
I’ll be away for the rest of the week, so stay well.
*Though Sagittarius is largely associated with Curt Boettcher project, it was begun by Gary Usher, who produced and arranged the LP (with the exception of a few completed Ballroom tracks that Boettcher brought to the project).