Rain Parade, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1983)

Heading back to the early 80s for an album I fell in love with on first listen back in college and hasn't left my side since.

The Rain Parade were part of the early/mid-80s Paisley Underground scene, a number of loosely affiliated SoCal bands that merged late 60s psychedelia and garage with post-punk guitar jangle, including the Bangles, the Dream Syndicate, the Long Ryders, the Three O'Clock, and others.  While all were pretty great, Rain Parade were my favorite, perfectly blending a Byrdsy Rickenbacker guitar sound with mildly trippy psychedelia, kind of like early R.E.M. but after a tab of acid.

The songs are melodic and gentle, perfect for a quiet afternoon with a pair of headphones, but still firmly grounded.  A few songs are unforgettable ear candy, sticking with you long after the album ends (like the infectiously charming "This Can't Be Today," "1 Hour 1/2 Ago," and "Talking In My Sleep"), but it's remarkably consistent throughout.

The CD reissue appends the 1984 follow-up EP, Explosions in the Glass Palace, which is every bit as essential, including the lovely "You Are My Friend" and the Velvet Underground-esque guitar drone workout "No Easy Way Down."

Guitarist David Roback left after the first album to form Opal and later Mazzy Star, focusing on the more psychedelic aspects of the band's sound, while his brother Steven soldiered on for a few more albums, which weren't quite as great as the debut but still had some stand-out moments (most notably "Don't Feel Bad" on 1985's Crashing Dream).

Here's a video for "This Can't Be Today":

And an odd little bit of animation somebody pasted on to "Talking In My Sleep":

And hey, how about a live take on "You Are My Friend" while we're at it:

Buy it on Amazon.