Hopewell’s aim has never been more true.
With Beautiful Targets, the upstate New York psych-rock band has shot an arrow through critics’ dark hearts with an album that’s as bright as a supernova and soars on wings of orchestral-pop ambition.
Trying to fit it into a neat, tidy box of a genre is impossible as Beautiful Targets squirms out of attempts to wrestle it under one classification or another.
The surging, piano-strewn drama of “Tree,” coupled with the exotic theater that is “Windy Day (Giant Dancers),” explodes with light, while “Afterglow” builds and builds to what seems like a stunning conclusion, and then suddenly it shifts into something that resembles The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” before expanding and rising to greater heights of bombast.
The jubilant celebration after steering the good ship Hopewell through the stormy seas of the turbulent, emotionally charged Hopewell and the Birds of Appetite, a musical excoriation of past sins, Beautiful Targets is a grand, epic work that scales past ELO on its ascent to whatever sonic apex you can think of.
Jason Russo, formerly a keyboard player for the masters of psychedelic maelstroms, Mercury Rev, is the group’s leader. He talked with Goldmine about the making of the album, and the fascinating narrative thread that runs through it.
Could a concept album be in the offing?
Goldmine:Birds of Appetite was the product of tumultuous living and coming out of that period alive and changed. Is Beautiful Targets more a search for beauty and joy than any sort of musical catharsis?
Jason Russo: No. Beautiful Targets is the sound of the band celebrating that it has survived. It was born out of the hundreds of live shows we played after the release of Hopewell & The Birds …
We have always been on the hunt for beauty. Most of the new songs express some form of longing, just with a glimmer of hope that the light at the end of the tunnel may actually not be a train.
GM: What is the struggle now? Because the characters in “Beautiful Targets” seem to be striving for something that’ll lift them out of their present drudgery.
JR: Yeah, there are a lot of little stories in there about people we have known or been. There’s a lot of hidden drama in the upstate New York suburbs. The struggle is interpersonal. It’s the same struggle as ever, just different symptoms. Does that make sense? I think the previous records had more to do with conflicts within the character, and this one has to do with the conflict spreading out to others.
GM: Musically, Beautiful Targets seems more focused, maybe a little more direct than Birds of Appetite. And that’s not meant to demean Birds …