Rain Parade Credit: courtesy of the artists

One of the first musical subcultures I got excited about as a kid was LA’s early- to mid-80s Paisley Underground scene, one of the first neo-psychedelic movements in the U.S.—I was thrilled by the music but uninterested in the chemical mind alteration it often seemed to imply or encourage. So while I was happy to buy a paisley shirt at a vintage store, when I went to a concert by the Three O’Clock and somebody handed me a small paper cup with a sugar cube in it, I got nervous.

The Paisley Underground made room for lots of different sounds: the country twang of the Long Ryders, the post-Velvets skronk of the Dream Syndicate, the twee pop of the Three O’Clock, the proto-Americana garage rock of Green on Red. Looking back, much of the music was mediocre, but some of the best bands—such as the Bangles—made lasting cultural marks, even if they gave up anything remotely psychedelic in the process. One of my favorites was the largely forgotten Rain Parade, who made a couple of albums and pretty much dissolved by 1986. At this point they’re probably best remembered as the first band of guitarist David Roback, who went on to form Opal and then Mazzy Star.

The group’s 1983 debut album, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, was one of my favorites in high school, and a few weeks ago Real Gone Music reissued it as a combined release with its strong follow-up EP, 1984’s Explosions in the Glass Palace (Roback had left the band by then). It’d been years, if not decades, since I listened to the album, and I’m amazed by how great it still sounds: a kaleidoscopic wash of colors, ethereal vocal harmonies, inventive guitar arrangements, and hooky, bittersweet melodies. Some tunes, such as “Carolyn’s Song,” are unmistakably druggy in their languid sprawl, while others combine upbeat rhythms with catchy splendor, including the Byrdsy “What She’s Done to Your Mind.” Even at their most extroverted, the Rain Parade maintained an impressive control, meticulously assembling layers of sound rather than simply exploding into spastic overdrive. Below you can check out the video for album track “This Can’t Be Today.”

Today’s playlist:

New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert, Carl Nielsen: Symphony No. 5/Symphony No. 6 (Dacapo)
Various artists, Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988 (Ostinato)
Pierre-Yves Macé, Segments et Apostilles (Tzadik)
Waclaw Zimpel, Lines (Instant Classic)
R. Andrew Lee, Randy Gibson: The Four Pillars Appearing From the Equal D Under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in the Midwinter Starfield 16 VIII 10 (Kansas City) (Irritable Hedgehog)