The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – Vol. III: A Child’s Guide to Good and Evil

ImageFor those of you who have never heard of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, any discussion of the band must include some back story of band leader Bob Markley. Bob Markley was the adopted son of an oil tycoon from Oklahoma. After moving to California in the early to mid 60s, Markley used his extensive funds to create an experimental art/music group modeled after Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground. Drawing on his law school background, Markley ensured that he had complete control over the sound and artistic output of the band, often using it as a vehicle for his strange and sometimes creepy (he was widely reported to have a thing for underage girls) beliefs. Although the rest of the band members were turned off by Markley’s apparent obsession with children, they continued this ever-strained collaboration due to Markley’s wealth, connections, and perceived ability to make them famous. Between their founding in 1966 and their slow dissolution eventually culminating in 1970, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band recorded six albums, with Vol. III: A Child’s Guide to Good and Evil being released on Reprise Records in 1968 as their fourth album. Despite the band’s internal struggle, they were often able to produce a very high quality of 60s psychedelic rock, and A Child’s Guide to Good and Evil is no exception. The band’s commitment to the psychedelic sound is clear from the moment the needle drops. The first two songs, “Eighteen Is Over the Hill” and “In the Country,” are textbook examples of 60s psychedelic pop. Working from a pop base, The West Coast Pop Art Band introduces a heavily distorted guitar, acid-inspired studio effects, and general weirdness. Most of the songs on the album each have their own combination of psychedelic attributes in order to make each song unique, quirky, and fun. Some highlights on the album include “Ritual #2” and “A Child of a Few Hours Is Burning to Death.” Both songs introduce Eastern-inspired sounds and instruments to make these songs complex and delightful, at least from an instrumental point of view. From a lyrical point of view, both of these songs along with several others on the album contain morbid and bizarre lyrics written by Bob Markley. Although the band’s sound is often phenomenal, Markley’s lyrics can be off-putting. The most obvious example of this is in the title track, “A Child’s Guide to Good and Evil.” This track is instrumentally creative and fun, but Bob Markley detracts from the overall experience by speaking over the music with very weird and morbid lyrics. This being said, however, in many songs the vocal harmony of the group can be quite catchy and enjoyable, specifically on “In the Country” and “Our Drummer Always Plays in the Nude.” Overall this album speaks to the band’s continuous internal struggle: on one hand, the band could be so much better without Markley’s controlling presence, but on the other hand, the great sound they do produce would not have been possible without his direction and resources. No matter how you feel about Bob Markley and his beliefs, this album is a must for the 60s psychedelic fan. Even if you’re not a huge psychedelic rock fan, this album is incredibly creative and well worth your time.  B+

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