Like some kind of time-hopping wizard with preternatural melodic sensibilities, M Ross Perkins is back with his sophomore full-length, E Pluribus M Ross. The album, his first for Colemine/Karma Chief Records, is another masterclass in home recording with 12 shimmering slices of purely perfect psychedelic pop.
Perkins fittingly had music journalists in a tizzy when he released his critically acclaimed self-titled full-length on Sofaburn Records in 2016. Record Collector called it “a truly great album filled with late ‘60s and early ‘70s pop goodness,” while High Times praised it as “the kind of good old-fashioned psychedelic-tinged rock & roll that the world could use right now.” Shindig upped the praise, calling Perkins’ music “the perfect percolated distillation of Nilsson and Emitt Rhodes, one minute SoCal harmony pop inspired by the Fabs’ trippy era, the next Merseybeat, and often silly, but biographical, like Harry at his best.”
The critics are right to praise the Ohio-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who conjures up his distinctively imaginative recordings all alone in his home studio. However, one would be missing the point to simply portray Perkins as a man lost in the past. The music of this unique artist is undeniably steeped in the indelible melodic hooks and laidback rhythms of the psychedelic ‘60s, but he’s no copycat.
In describing Perkins, it’s not wrong to namecheck Rhodes and Nilsson, but you have to expand that list of influences to include pop-rock visionaries like Brian Wilson, Colin Blunstone, and even John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Let’s also throw in the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Kinks as well. Perkins clearly learned plenty of helpful tips from these and other legends that made the late 1960s and early 1970s such a magical musical time, but he has charted his own singular path from the past and back again.
The warbly filmstrip soundtrack that opens E Pluribus M Ross lets listeners know immediately this isn’t going to be another bland modern rock album. And Perkins confirms this time and time again with each lush arrangement, with each delightfully unexpected left turn. He tastefully mines the sonically rich period from 1968 to 1972, whether it’s Mersey-inspired harmonies, haunting mellotron, Gram Parsons style country-rock embellishments, or McCartney-esque bass runs. And yet, this is no simple pastiche. A fresh, forward-thinking spirit links the old with the new, making E Pluribus M Ross the kind of album that possesses a broad multi-generational appeal.
The hooks, arrangements, and overall sense of songcraft are as sophisticated as the work of Wilson and Nilsson, which is remarkable when you consider Perkins not only produced all of the musical arrangements but also played all of the instruments and sang all of the vocal parts on the album. Even more impressive, Perkins is able to evoke all of these iconic figures in his songs without resorting to psych-rock cliches or outright thievery. It’s an extraordinary balancing act, and what emerges is a shimmering tapestry of skillfully-woven musical threads, each harkening back to the past while simultaneously pointing toward the future.
While Perkins had previously recorded demos of a number of the songs from E Pluribus M Ross, this recorded version of the album didn’t exist before the pandemic hit in March of 2020. Like many musicians, he admits he was struggling to be creative at the time:
“I was just waiting to see how bad the catastrophe was going to be,” Perkins said. “Like everybody, I started to get pretty depressed. It was like, ‘Man, the world is ending.’ We didn’t know how the election was going to turn out; the entire system was just ripping at the seams. Musically, I just couldn’t imagine going downstairs and trying to be like, ‘Oooh, baby, baby.’ Trying to write a love song or something just seemed like the most ridiculous thing a person could do in that moment.”
Perkins found inspiration when Terry Cole, founder of Colemine Records, signed him to his Karma Chief imprint in the early days of the global pandemic. “After Terry hit me up, I went downstairs and just immediately got to work,” Perkins said. “It was a shot in the arm. I went down and recorded an LP from start to finish. I pulled out a lot of unreleased songs, tried to rethink how to arrange and play them, and turned them into a new album.”
“Wrong Wrong Wrong,” the lead single from E Pluribus M Ross, opens with a descending guitar riff that would make the Byrds blush. However, it quickly transforms into a bouncy number, in stark contrast to the seriousness of the lyrics, which touch on “fake news” and malicious disinformation. That dichotomy is something of a hallmark of Perkins’ work and reappears on tracks like “Industrial Good Day Mantra,” “Tired of Me,” and “The Butterscotch Revue.” Without eschewing any deliciously gooey hooks, Perkins leans a bit into the harder side of psychedelia with “Venti Gasp Inhale” and “Funeral For a Satellite,” a fitting, fuzz-guitar-drenched album closer.
So, take our advice and join Perkins on his magical mystery trip through time, E Pluribus M Ross, coming this spring on Colemine/Karma Chief Records.
M Ross’ new album E Pluribus M Ross will be available March 18, 2022 on vinyl, CD and digital/streaming formats.
E Pluribus M Ross Tracklist:1. Industrial Good Day Mantra2. Wrong Wrong Wrong (Click here to listen)3. The New American Laureate4. This One 5. Tired of Me6. It’s Your Boy7. The Clock Reads 60 Seconds from Now8. Venti Gasp Inhale9. Mr Marble Eyes (Marbles for His Eyes)10. Butterscotch Revue11. Pinball Blonde12. Funeral for a Satellite ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp | Colemine Records