Recording information: Ranscombe Studios, Rochester (2014-02-24&2014-02-25&2014-).
The Wave Pictures have never been shy about collaborating with and paying homage to their heroes. Over the course of their prolific career, they've worked with Hefner's Darren Hayman and covered the music of Daniel Johnston and Jason Molina. Still, it feels like an especially inspired choice for the band to work with Billy Childish on their 16th (!) album Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon, which quite literally amplifies the Wave Pictures' garage rock leanings: not only did they enlist Childish's services as a co-producer and writer, they also used his '60s vintage guitars, drums, and amps. Obviously, this extra musical muscle benefits rockers like the charming title track and "Pea Green Coat," which bookend the album with some particularly incendiary guitar work, but it also enhances Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon's quieter songs. The album's added crunch makes the contrast between the agile wordplay and blunt sounds on "I Could Hear the Telephone (3 Floors Above Me)" all the sharper and lends a narcotic, Velvet Underground-like buzz to the vignette "At Dusk You Took Down the Blinds." As always, it's the little things that make the Wave Pictures distinctive: "Frogs Sing Loudly in the Ditches" is contemplative garage rock filled with details that make time slow to a crawl (though that may just be down to David Tattersall missing his third cup of coffee that morning). Meanwhile, the tension between confident riffs and vulnerable words ("there's a river of jelly where my spine should be") on "Fake Fox Fur Pillowcase" recalls the Who's early days in spirit, if not sound. The only time the band's hero worship gets them in trouble is on the pair of Creedence Clearwater Revival covers in the middle of Great Big Flamingo Burning; while their version of "Sinister Purpose" removes CCR's inevitable groove and replaces it with rattling intensity, following it with a less interesting reworking of "Green River" is too much of a good thing. On the whole, though, Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon lives up to its potential as Childish helps the Wave Pictures challenge themselves and come into their own. ~ Heather Phares