Being a sucker for three part harmonies and any music that is conscientiously layered, I kind of expected to love Quilt, a band whose layered but homely sound is right there in the name. The drifting, languid tunes that populate their eponymous debut were formed in a series of long jams, with the band riffing on established chord sequences until concrete songs emerged that sound unlike anything you’ve heard… recently.
You see, just as the name Quilt is completely on the money as a description of the band’s sound, so “Quilt” the album is completely on the nose with its influences: by the time album opener “Young Gold” is done, Quilt’s likeness to The Mamas And The Papas, Jefferson Airplaine and the like is unavoidable, and much as I wish that the rest of the album would demonstrate some imagination that proves those comparisons lazy, it just doesn’t.
Still, while I might prefer to go straight to the source with my 60′s psych-folk and just give “Surrealistic Pillow” another spin, “Quilt” is far from a bad album, as genre tributes go. Shane Butler does his best “Village Green Preservation Society” era Ray Davies on “Penobska Oakwalk”, a track that pushes its throwback buttons with just enough camp that you can’t help but love it. I mean just look at these lyrics: “I’ve been packing bombs for a man in an idle tower / Who traded this land for an open hand of flowers … Language deflated the zeppelin of the conscience”. “Cowboys In The Void” achieves the same effect musically rather than lyrically, with its uplifting, chantlike harmonies evoking the happiest of hippy dance circles.
Unfortunately there are places where Quilt’s retro act falters and the band’s jam-ethic comes through to the detriment of their song-writing, with more than one track feeling aimless and unjustifiably long. I’m glad to have Quilt around – who else can provide a live fix for the sort of music they’re emulating? – and some of the tracks on here are great, but I can’t see “Quilt” keeping anyone away from “California Dreamin’” for all that long.