Mike Donovan sheds the loose structures of the Peacers to get totally wiggy | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Mike Donovan sheds the loose structures of the Peacers to get totally wiggy 

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click to enlarge Mike Donovan

Mike Donovan

Laurel Connell

With his bands Sic Alps and the Peacers, Bay Area oddball Mike Donovan has treated his sprawling, postpsychedelic sensibilities with a modicum of rock-music orthodoxy as his collaborators lend shape and sinew to his delirious, wobbly tunes. There’s no missing an essence that wants to drift unmoored on last year’s Peacers album Introducing the Crimsmen, but the loose, shaggy grooves keep things more or less centered. Last month Donovan dropped his second solo album, How to Get Your Record Played in Shops (Drag City), and it seems to serve as a corrective to the comparatively polished sounds of the Peacers. The recording opens with the unsteady “Great Unknowing,” on which layers of overdubbed guitar, keyboards, and drums move in and out of rhythmic sync, and a murky production style seems to mimic substance-induced blurred vision. As with his previous work, influences of Syd Barrett and Skip Spence are apparent, but at times the blunt-force crudeness of his songs reminds me of the outsider musician Jandek—if the latter could write a catchy tune. Despite his meanderings, Donovan writes memorable melodies, and sorting through the sonic muck to locate a tuneful core makes listening to his records a bit like a treasure hunt. But sometimes his bleary hooks are unmistakable, such as in the blown-out beauty of the piano ballad “Sadfinger” or the denatured blues-rock flavors of “Spiral Tee Shirt,” where Donovan uses wordless doo-wop-style vocals as the bass line bubbling underneath his infectious falsetto.   v

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