“Oh, we’re gonna be stars, baby… stars!” Of course, Pinkest know that infamy probably isn’t in their stars — in the same monologue, Ethan Smith brags that they’ll top the charts and storm The Ed Sullivan Show. But if you follow the four blokes down the rabbit hole, To The Land of the Electric Angel, an alternate universe unfolds. Vampires stalk the queues to movie theaters that still screen silent films; closeted visionaries swap their secrets and pedals in broad daylight over tea and biscuits; quandaries of artistic integrity manifest into millions of staring clones. Pinkest’s first full-length odyssey may not lead to overnight fame — what does these days? — but it’s a journey nevertheless, a short film with a cinematic vision that few other debuts can claim.
Now, this paisley trip through a peculiarly British portal was already underway with their debut EP, You Are a Camera. And indeed, the boys of Pinkest carry that silly and infectious spunk from their maiden voyage into this new land; if anything, the opening salvo of “A Hole in the Sky” and the title track bolster that Buzzcocks bravado to new heights, with Smith screaming to the high heavens and guitars whooshing around him like silver ships from Hawkwind. Here, too, are the indelible melodies that seem wrung from years of study in the songwriting school of McCartney and Davies; lead single “Plastic Fantastic” gleefully ransacks such tricks with a distinctly Costello-ish flair.
But what sets To the Land apart is an uncanny logic, a frame of whimsy which auteurs like Harry Nilsson and Brian Wilson could once build with ease into pop. A skewed little story winds through the absurd lyrics and spark-shooting riffs, in bits of dialogue and soliloquy — something about celluloid stars rising to astronomical heights, then crashing back down to the terrifying reality that they’re nothing special at all. “A Great Big Goodbye” prepares us nicely for the surreal conclusion with the kind of sweet, piano-laced ballad that a studio wizard like Todd Rundgren would pen; “A Crack in the Sun (Curtain Close)” rounds out the album with a Syd Barrett-y acoustic number that meditates on death, birth, and clearing “the cats from our haircuts.” Follow the lyrics (The knife under your purse? Acid vampires? We were waiting for you to die?), and nothing pans out. But follow the sounds, the psychic echoes of past masters, the procession from one unlikely idea to the next, and something clicks — namely, that Pinkest enjoy poking fun at themselves, and weaving a whole world of nonsense along the way.
Now, if you were feeling sinister, you could point out to me that Pinkest have embarked on the same lackadaisical route as Foxygen, my personal nemeses. But I’d rebuke you and argue that those overgrown boys from California couldn’t traverse any dimension beyond one drenched in gumdrops and sunshine, a manipulated sepia snapshot of the ’60s (and then this year, the ’80s) with their own smiling mugs imposed into the picture. Pinkest portray a far more multidimensional postcard, bursting with color in both uncanny settings and earthly emotions. In truth, our protagonists could’ve easily sailed further into their cosmic fantasy than this first flight permits, as To the Land rockets to its final destination so quickly that we miss the climb to the climax. But that’s okay, because Pinkest are responsible time travelers. Another adventure waits right under their fingertips.