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Plasticland, 'Color Appreciation' Plasticland, 'Plasticland'

Color Appreciation  [a.k.a. Plasticland]  (1984/85,  34.34/35.28)  ***½/TT½

Sections
Her Decay
Rattail Comb
Alexander
The Glove
Disengaged From the World
Color Appreciation
Elongations
Sipping the Bitterness
The Garden in Pain
Magic Rocking Horse
Driving Accident Prone
Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes
The Mushroom Hill

Pop! Op Drops
[1985 reissue removes two tracks and adds:
Wallflowers
Posing for Pictures]
Plasticland, 'Wonder Wonderful Wonderland'

Wonder Wonderful Wonderland  (1985,  34.14)  ***½/TTT

No Shine for the Shoes
Gloria Knight
Transparencies, Friends

Fairytale Hysteria
Don't Let it All Pass By
The Gingerbread House

Flower Scene
Processes of the Silverness
Non-Stop Kitchen
Grassland of Reeds and Things
Gloria Knight (Reprise)
Wonder Wonderful Wonderland
Plasticland, 'Salon'

Salon  (1987,  32.12)  ***/TT

Go a Go-Go Time
What am I to Say
It's a Dog's Life
A Quick Commentary on Wax Museums
Abcessed Words to Climb
House
(The Lie of) Great Sedan Pinocchio
We Can't
Serene it's True
Reserving the Right to Change My Mind
The Window Sills
Don't Antagonize Me
Plasticland, 'Let's Play Pollyanna EP'

Let's Play Pollyanna EP  (1989,  13.53)  ***½/T

Let's Play Pollyanna
Radiant Fuzzbox Wig
Kaleidoscopic Glance
Enchanted Forestry
Plasticland, 'Dapper Snappings'

Dapper Snappings  (1994,  32.21)  ***/T

Craved Blue Memorandum
High School Nurse
Make Yourself a Happening Machine
The Bunny Bear
When You Get Subliminal, You Really
  Get Sublime
Radiant Fuzzbox Wig
Probing
Let's Play Pollyanna
Passing Over Rollercoaster
House of Worms
Cookies With the Vaudeville Glaze
Plasticland, 'Mink Dress & Other Cats'

Mink Dress & Other Cats  (1995, recorded 1980-85,  36.12)  ***½/T

You Were Such a Bad Time
In My Black and White
I'm Gonna Emphasize
Pushy
The Prince's Playroom
Too Many Fingers
Standing in a Room
A Change in You
Mink Dress
They Wore Sequined Masks
The Lady is No Lady
Some Ghost Ship Lollipop
Headlice Rags and Arrogance
Baby Scissors
Color Appreciation
Market Place of Zesty Zeal
The Mushroom Hill
Office Skills
Skipping Down the Nature Trail

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Milwaukee's Plasticland seem to polarise opinion; I've seen both 'brilliant' and 'crap' levelled against them in the same 'comments' section. They played enormously unfashionable neo-psych in the early '80s, at which time only goths were taking the late '60s seriously (think: The Damned's version of Eloise), doing it really rather well, I have to say, even if Glenn Rehse can't really sing. A version of the band is in existence to this day, not to mention loads of offshoots, side-projects and the like.

Plasticland, 'Make Yourself a Happening Machine'

There's no Mellotron on their first single, Mink Dress and first EP, Vibrasonics From Plasticland, and while they used one on their next two 7"s, they both turned up on their debut album, 1984's Color Appreciation. It was released on the French Lolita label, then reissued the following year as Plasticland, replacing two tracks and completely resequencing the rest, to no apparently good purpose. It's a good album, without being outstanding; they've got the style down to a T (ho ho), but there's something lacking on the actual songwriting front, although there are several minor gems included here, not least Her Decay, Alexander and Magic Rocking Horse. Rehse not only sings and plays guitar, but adds keyboards (including, of course, Mellotron) to several tracks, with flutes on Her Decay and Magic Rocking Horse, a full-on string part on Alexander, with more of the same on Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes and The Mushroom Hill. Of the two new tracks on Plasticland, Wallflowers is crammed full of 'Tron flutes and strings, irritatingly making both versions essential if you want to hear everything relevant. I believe the now out-of-print 2000 CD issue on Hardknocks Records mops up all tracks from both versions, but don't quote me on that.

Not only did Bam Caruso release Plasticland in '85, but the band issued their follow-up, Wonder Wonderful Wonderland the same year. It's immediately obvious that the band have loosened up in the interim, jamming more than before, with fewer quirky little psych-pop songs. Top tracks? Probably the 12-string driven Gloria Knight (I used to know a lady of that name in the instrument insurance business. Coincidence?), The Gingerbread House and the closing title track. Rehse's Mellotron work this time round includes choirs (for the first time) on Gloria Knight, plus strings, with faint pitchbent choirs on Transparencies, Friends. There's flutes on Don't Let It All Pass By and, very obviously, The Gingerbread House, along with strings and choir, finishing off nicely with the strings and overdubbed flutes on the title track.

Plasticland took a stylistic sharp left turn on 1987's Salon, largely leaving quirky psych-pop songs behind, replacing them with a darker, more jammed-out vision, not entirely unlike Pink Floyd's improvisational work in the late '60s. To be perfectly honest, the joy seems to have gone out of it, being substituted by existential panic and too much reverb, although the album still has its moments, not least What Am I To Say, the organ-drenched (The Lie Of) Great Sedan Pinocchio and the mental Reserving The Right To Change My Mind. 'Tronwise, Rehse adds a very psychedelic (read: tuneless and reverb-drenched) string part near the end of A Quick Commentary On Wax Museums, followed by solo choirs, more choirs on the instrumental We Can't, with some truly deranged strings on Reserving The Right To Change My Mind, although we're not talking their heaviest Mellotron use ever.

1989 brought a live album with Twink (Pretty Things, Pink Fairies), You Need a Fairy Godmother, supposedly containing Mellotron; review to follow when I get to hear a copy. They released the Let's Play Pollyanna EP the same year, a fairly low-fi effort with a punky edge on the title track and queasy trumpet on Enchanted Forestry, shifting back into more familiar territory with Kaleidoscopic Glance and the excellent Radiant Fuzzbox Wig. Two 'Tron tracks, with flutes and stabbed strings on Radiant Fuzzbox Wig and a minor flute part, doubling the organ, on Enchanted Forestry.

1990's live Confetti also apparently features the Great White Beast and still hasn't been tracked down by yours truly, leaving a four year gap before the band's next official release, Dapper Snappings. Containing two tracks from their by-then five year-old ...Polyanna EP, it's short on new ideas, given how quickly they spat out their first two albums. In fairness, it's probably a minor improvement over Salon, although they still haven't regained the joyous approach that propelled them through their early releases, despite possibly their best-ever song title, When You Get Subliminal, You Really Get Sublime. On the Mellotron front, there's flutes and strings on Radiant Fuzzbox Wig, but given that it seems to be the same version as Let's Play Pollyanna's, it seems safe to say that you won't find any new Mellotronic contributions here.

Given how many single-only and compilation appearance track the band have produced over at least a two-decade career (depending on what you count), the bulk of them have been available on one album or another at some point, the obvious exceptions being the two tracks from Let's Play Pollyanna that didn't reappear on Dapper Snappings and a 1989 a-side, Seize The Time, which may never have got past the test pressing stage anyway. Two compilations that mop up other rarities are 1995's Mink Dress & Other Cats (Timothy's Brain) and 2006's thirty-track Make Yourself A Happening Machine: a Collection, seemingly the only Plasticland album currently in print. If you're absolutely hellbent on owning every single 'Tron track the band produced, you'll need Mink Dress... for the flutes on its final track, the outtake Skipping Down The Nature Trail.

So; given that buying new CDs isn't the only way to obtain music and I know some of you lot are as dogged as me when it comes to tracking stuff down, how many of the above do you need to hear? In all brutal honesty, if you can find that Hardknocks version of Plasticland and Wonder Wonderful Wonderland, you've got the bulk of their best material, although Let's Play Pollyanna is worth hearing, as are some of their early, anthologised single and EP tracks. OK, they're all worth hearing, just that some of them are more worth hearing than others. A good, largely overlooked band; ignore the naysayers and get those first two albums, at least.

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