THE GANDHARVAS – Sold for a Smile (1997/1998 Universal US and Canadian versions)
What a band were the Gandharvas. Lead howler Paul Jago could hit those Perry Farrell highs, and they wrote some pretty fucking great songs including their major hit “The First Day of Spring”. An unappreciated gem would be their third and final album, 1997’s Sold for a Smile. Led by the anthemic single “Downtime”, this is a hard album to resist no matter which version you get. It even made our list: “88 Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 90s“.
Versions? Yes, two: the Canadian and US have different track listings. In 1997, Canada got the basic 10 track CD. When it was released Stateside, a number of tracks including “Downtime” were remixed. The US and Canadian versions of “Downtime” have vastly different guitar solo and outro mixes, for example. The States also got two bonus tracks: a new recording of “The First Day of Spring” and a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. (The original album was a shorty at just under 40 minutes.)
The Gandharvas turned it up a notch for this album without losing sight of their more delicate tendencies. “Gonna Be So Loose” is a slamdance of squealing vocals and chords. (This song is available remixed on the US version.) But then “Shells” is a low, strummy song perfect for the headphones. It shows of the layered vocals that are a Gandharvas trademark. “Waiting for Something to Happen” then goes somewhere between Guns N’ Roses and screamy, psychedelic punk rock — an astounding song, which then defies all logic by going acoustic. And then all over the place.
Time for a little more pop in the rock, with “Hammer in a Shell”. Snarly pop, with a sour candy coating. “Watching the Girl” was another fine single, a more streamlined song for this album. It too was remixed on the US edition, putting the guitars way louder. Then strap in for “Sarsasparilla”, a boulder-heavy rocketship blast into space. “Into the Mainstream”, then, is a bit more complex, and perhaps a little bit epic.
“Milk Ocean” leads you to the end, with a healthy dose of acidy psychedelia. It’s the closer, “Diabaloney” that’s a real head scratcher. Is it a joke? I can’t tell. “I fuck it up, I got the fuck, I got the luck,” goes one set of lines. Heavy and screamy goodness, but a real headscratcher nonetheless. What the hell did I just listen to?
On the US version, the new recording of “The First Day of Spring” is placed third in the running order, after the remixes of “Downtime” and “Gonna Be So Loose”. It’s quite a bit heavier than the original, though a brilliant song it remains. Could it be actually a polished up live version? Why does Paul Jago yell out “Colorado!” in the middle? For fun? This band is from London, Ontario not Colorado! And “Time After Time”? They twist it up, give it bite, and for better or for worse make it their own. Unless you have a serious attachment to the song, the Gandharvas’ interpretation is quite cool.
As if you can’t tell, this is an album you should own. Get one or the other, or both!