Once upon a time....
You are sitting comfortably, aren’t you?
Once upon a time, there was a praying mantis named Pellapetisimo. And a little girl named Sally, and a bluebird named Hank, and a bunch of other people who also live in the meadow. It’s the story of a band from Pittsburgh called Grandpa Egg, a songwriter named Jeb, and a back catalog that also includes an album called Songs for my Cat. Oh, and if you’ve ever caught The Mighty Boosh on late night TV, then we’re probably all on the same page together.
With Inga (bass, keyboards), Jordin (percussion) and Bart (ebow, bass and resonator) completing the line-up, Grandpa Egg have been around long enough for their feline debut to have already drawn comparisons with Syd Barrett and Donovan, although that’s probably a dart that can be thrown at anyone who sings whimsical songs in a taut Englush accent, while minimalist accompaniment fusses around the edges.
Closer points of inquiry would be passing elements of the Bevis Frond, if a particularly demented Brother Gibb (pick one, any one) was wielding the songwriting pen for the Christian-hearted lion’s share of what followed. But there are choice elements of David Devant and his Spirit Wife flitting around the story-telling aspects as well, and that’s only the start of where things go askew. “Every Alcove” sounds like Comus playing reggae on a didgeridoo; “It Warms the Cockles” would be an Ogden’s Nut Gone out-take if Philip Jeays was overseeing the sessions.
Contrast that with the sweet twang and muse that shines through “Stems and a Green Leaf Still,” one of several songs that suggests there’s a lot more going on here than a fairy tale drawn from childish memories, and which inches with an almost sinister edge into the toy piano plonk of the two part “Two Houses.”
Both songs cling tight to the overall concept but they stand, too, as glorious fragments of gentle, gentrified jam rock. Elsewhere, “Sunrise House” is so catchy-lovable-and surprisingly lyrical that it could almost be Belle and Sebastian. If they ever made a record with the Clangers. And "Compound Eyes" has the kind of lyrics that you wish you'd memorized before that biology exam.
In other words... it’s one of those “expectations at the door” albums that would be too easy to regard as a slice of psych eccentricity, but which definitely has something else on its mind as well.
One question, though. Who the devil names their praying mantis Pellapetisimo?
Pick up your Praying Mantishere.