This release makes me alternately happy and sad. Happy because of who the musicians are; knowing them as well as I do from their amazing work (and actually knowing some of them) and sad because of losing one of their members before this album saw the light of day. I take a great deal of solace in knowing that Omnivore Records has seen to preserve the legacy of East Of Venus with Memory Box, which is simply beautiful – as it will become timeless in your hearts and minds upon hearing.
To give you a brief background on East Of Venus – they were (I hate having to use the past tense) Michael Carlucci (Winter Hours), Glenn Mercer (The Feelies, Wake Ooloo), Stan Demeski (The Feelies, Luna) and Rob Norris (The Bongos, Living With Elephants – who was reviewed here on Popdose). The music is a wonderful mixing and melding from all of those bands, but still is their own.
The album features original material, as well as covers of The Red Buckets’ “Jane September,” Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” and “Citadel” from The Rolling Stones. Fans of the group’s members will not only devour this – it’s a certainty to gain a completely new/separate audience (as one hopes this album will be loved on its own merits and not by the past associations aligned with it).
We lost Michael Carlucci quite suddenly late last year, and in many ways, Memory Box reflects his influences (which were communally shared in the Hoboken music scene of that era – Lou Reed, Rolling Stones, Faces, Dylan, Television, Gene Clark, etc.). “Faded Pictures” was a Winter Hours song in 1990 and performed by them prior to their break up. It’s a great, lost song that is given new life here; “Let’s Find A Way” has the perfect blend of pop jangle, country runs and well, everything (and listen to that water-tight rhythm section of Rob Norris and Stan Demeski – purely natural); “You Started Something” has this wonderful intensity, wrapped in a clean sound (production was by the band and helped in mixing by Matthew Davis) and “Who’s To Know?” is joyfully reminiscent (to me) of a very uptempo Rain Parade. In a word – and without wanting to give it all away – every song in this collection is a delight.
The band has dedicated this release to Mr. Carlucci’s memory: “His spirit will forever live on through the music he created.” I can only believe he knows and he would be happy. I certainly believe the sentiment.
So let this be your mantra: as you travel through the alternative universe, remember your first stop should be East Of Venus.
Memory Box will be released on Friday, April 15th, 2015
Band photo by John Baumgartner