Review: Peel Dream Magazine – “Modern Meta Physic”

Peel Dream Magazine, a fuzzy-eared nod, in part, to BBC man-about-town John Peel, makes pillowy, fey and sometimes borderline-experimental pop. And on the group’s new LP – Modern Meta Physic, out recently via Slumberland – they do a pretty fine job of it, or at least that’s the vantage point from this tower.

On songs like the beatific “Shenandoah,” leading man Joe Stevens accents his whisper-soft voice with everything from buzzing Hammond and chimy pop guitars to marimba. And it’s those charming nuances that give this particular brand of guitar-pop some depth and dimension, calling to mind a low-blood-pressure hybrid of The Velvet Underground, Stereolab and, maybe just maybe, Calvin Johnson. Don’t be dissuaded, though: this is far from Jad-Fair-slanted 80s/90s “pop” in its sense of experimentation. Instead, Stevens and his able but low-in-the-mix trio meander through sleepy, occasionally mod-ish pop songs accented with surprising attention to detail, all with the slightly less than noble intent of slipping that ear-worm into your Mickey Finn.

Songs like the interesting cut-up “Wood Paneling” call back to the faux-experimental leanings of the 60s avant-garde-leaning set, even inserting the noise of radio/TV switching between the “channels” of recorded commercials and found sounds. It’s an interesting, largely harmless little take. Despite the 60s fascination, “Don’t Pick Up Slackers,” an anti-climactic closer, goes for a little bit more of a modern take on this sound-sampling trick, to no greater end.

There are gems, though. On the riveting “Due To Advances In Modern Tourism,” which cranks up the beats per minute but doesn’t seem to disrupt the calm composure of its front-man, these guys sound like The Sea and Cake as led by Elliott Smith. And, yeah, that’s a compliment. “Interiors” is a great piece of fuzz-pop. “Levitating Between 2 Chords” floats but “Deetjen’s,” which follows it, lands a punch. And songs like “Fire,” which sounds a bit like a symbiote for much of what’s around it, go right for the heart.

All in all, Modern Meta Physic is a fine little record with a cohesive sound, a nail-on-the-head for someone trudging through the streets with a bowl-cut and peg-leg trousers. There’s something other-timely about it, an interpretation of 60s mellowness without the accompanying melodrama. And that alone should make it worth the spin. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Oct. 17, 2019


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.