Soup Album Review
~ Frank Kocher - San Diego Troubador
Soup hails from Oceanside, a trio of roots-rockers whose sound is a sort of throwback to earlier decades when the San Francisco psychedelic sound and jam bands ruled. On their debut disc, The Great Awakening, singer Jonathan Fleig writes most of the music. Eli Slover and Colin Wicker also sing on the songs, which blend acoustic and electric guitars, harmonies, and nice touches that create a ‘60s feel. There is a definite debt to earlier bands in the genre like the Grateful Dead and Phish, and the disc has a vibe that makes the listener want to burn incense while playing it.
"5th of May" follows an instrumental opener; the goofy lyrics, country-rock melody, and Jerry Garcia-inspired guitar fills make for a fitting introduction to the feel-good hippie vibe that permeates the music here. The lead vocalist (uncredited throughout, as are the guitars) has a bluesy howl that goes well with the protest song "Enemy," which has a counterculture message, "You've got me down on my knees/But I'm not your enemy." The title cut has an acid-rock chord progression, acid-rock lyrics, and morphs into a long, frenzied coda that throws in snippets of Chambers Brothers, the riff from "Going Down," lots of fuzz guitar, and choruses like "Love/love/love/ God is Love." Feedback ushers in "Cope," and the mood is sustained as more screeching, overdriven lead guitar wails; this one evokes a flashing amoeba light show, like the old Country Joe and the Fish albums. Nobody take the brown acid, man.
Not all of the tunes here hit the mark, as some of the mid-tempo shuffles ("Postcard," "You Will Bear") fade quickly. There is a Doors feel to "Disguise," which wraps two guitar licks around snare drum shots for a hook that resolve as lyrics professing love take over, until an echo-freakout ending.
The disc was produced by Fleig and the band in Wichita, Kansas, with Wayne Van Zee handling the drums. The mix is muddy in spots, burying the vocals here, blasting them too loud there. The overall feel works, since it sounds a lot like late ‘60s vinyl.
The disc saves its best for the end. Slover's "Dandylion Feathers" is a highlight, a soft country folk tune with the kind of smooth harmonies and compelling melody to lift it above the other material here. "The End (Celebration)" relates how love is going to ultimately triumph over hate and war, to an instrumental rave-up. The end (of this disc) comes with an extended jam featuring duel lead guitars.
Soup has established its sound with The Great Awakening, and it is familiar - love, peace, happiness, and guitars. The disc is enjoyable, and there is a long tradition of bands to suggest that they may succeed with an approach like this.