Having survived the pandemic by hunkering down in one of their favourite spaces, The Twilight Zone, Glasgow’s Strange Blue Dreams emerge with a second album which is infused with glorious retro sounds and an unbridled sense of delight in being able to twang again. When Blabber’n’Smoke wrote about their first album we said that they celebrated “the worlds of Larry Parnes, Barry Gray and Joe Meek along with a touch of exotica garnered from the likes of Martin Denny along with Eastern and Balkan music” and it’s fair to say that on Simple Machine they remain true to that vision.
A five piece band, led by singer and chief songwriter David Addison, The Strange Blue Dreams swing, sashay and sway with some aplomb through the ten songs on display here. Kicking off with the title song which wanders in with an insouciant nonchalance, we are faced with a simple lamentation as sung by a hapless gizmo, the sort we were promised would serve all our needs by programmes like Tomorrow’s World back in the day – emphasized by the retro robot toy on the album artwork. Swathed in a retro blue velvet shimmer it’s a grand start to the disc. Strange Paradise takes this promised future to more exotic climes, a Tiki reminiscence of a holiday in Butlins perhaps, while For My Sins adds some eastern mystique to the mix with the song sounding as if it has been unearthed from a compilation of late sixties Turkish psychedelia. With some wicked and deliciously reverbed guitar twanging soaring throughout, it’s bound to become a favourite.
Whether crooning and then soaring into Tin Pan Alley territory as on the melodramatic It Sounded Like A Song or battering into big band sounds with the horn laden Wine And Circuses, time and again the band take time honoured song styles and sprinkle their unique take all over them. Gold In The Mountain is a wonderful blend of reverential Presley allied to a Staple Singers like vibe and the album closes with a sprinkle of stardust on the initially dream like Knock Three Times which rises to a wonderfully skewed crescendo, somewhat akin to a beauty queen wiping away her tears as she ascends to her throne. However, it’s not bathetic, instead, it shows that The Strange Blue Dreams have their finger on the pulse of the dynamics much loved by rock’n’roll pioneers of past times. Joe Meek would have loved this song and Gene Pitney could have sung it.