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Published: 2004/06/30
by Pat Buzby

Jet Propelled Photographs – University of Errors

Cuneiform Records 188

This isn't Brian Wilson's Smile, but it is another instance
of victory snatched from more than 30 years of

In 1967, the early lineup of British psych pioneers
Soft Machine made its only studio recordings: a single
and a set of demos which saw semi-legal release under
the titled Jet Propelled Photographs. Later that
year, they went to France and guitarist Daevid Allen
couldnt come back, so he set up shop and formed Gong,
while his bandmates returned to the U.K. and began
gathering a cult following which still exists today.

Now, Allen is making the rounds with a new, American
crew, University of Errors, and they've seen fit to
revisit the Softs' 1967 repertoire. This time around,
Allen assumes vocal responsibilities and leaves the
guitar to Josh Pollock. That's a twist that
undermines the authenticity quotient of this CD a bit,
but it was Allen's call, and Pollock glides into
oblivion like a true fan (as well as pitching in a few
Kevin Ayers impressions to counteract Allen's Robert

The Softs were fellow travelers with Hendrix and
Syd Barrett-era Floyd, and this disc reminds us that while
they never quite equaled the immediacy of either act,
they exceeded them in avant/jazz immersion. Thus,
these 13 songs (mostly by Ayers, with a couple of
Wyatt themes which later got absorbed into his
pre-wheelchair magnum opus Moon In June) capture the
spirit of the times, with catchy choruses leading to
gloomy ostinatoes, tonal collisions and meltdown
codas. A few lyrics are perhaps less than enlightened
when it comes to views on women, but write that off as
part of the charm.

The Errors split the difference between '60s
throwback and modern garage punkers, and Allen sounds
more like a game reclaimer of the past than a weary
nostalgic. This new, legal Jet Propelled Photographs
is both an enjoyable new statement and a worthy
shedding of light on the days of old.

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