Rose Windows recall Jefferson Airplane, if you pinpricked the acid idealism with low-grade opiods and modern melancholy. Debut The Sun Dogs (Sub Pop) preserves the hippie-eastern palette with delayed flute trails, b2 modes, sliding octave strings, four songs over six minutes long, and lyrics like “spirit warriors” belted over organ. The record gushes with gorgeous textures: pedal steel swirls in “Heavenly Days”, churns of cello in “Season of Serpents”, Nina Simone piano rolls in “Wartime Lovers”, twelve-string Rickenbacker riffs in “Indian Summer”, desert highway Doors guitar on “This Shroud”…
So yes, Rose Windows are exactly that: an ornamental view into the cathedral of 60s psych pop and all its cultural associations. But their closely curated style restates the canon fifty years later in new light, with too forced of a smile. There’s a prominent low end and biting electric guitar underneath the pretty textures, hinting toward something else.
Consciously cryptic lyrics, full of repeated hippie-dippie images and incantations that are never fully explained, implicate the flower-power posturing of the past and show how time has warped the promises of 60s counterculture. We know now that Free Love grew up to govern the 80s. We know now that the mighty post-war American Dream keeps consuming until it collapses in on itself. The lyrical spirit, musical allusions, and overall aesthetic of The Sun Dogs are so closely and sincerely quoted that, when clashed against the reality of history, they expose how vain a generation’s idealism was.
But if the seemingly fervent convictions of the past were so futile, what are the band’s implications for ours today? These songs show American possibility, the “dream” and “altar” motif that dominates the first half of the record, is nothing but “This Shroud” of an “Indian Summer”. Communicating such bleakness with strings, flutes, and retro-sheen only sharpens it further, as if applying makeup to a corpse.
There’s irony as hipster-crutch, a protection from honest expression, and there’s irony as a genuine artistic device. Rose Windows are not trying to recreate 60s psych-pop and hide behind rose-colored glasses; they’re implicating those that do: “These could be our childhood dreams / Or what has lately seemed / The end of all sweet pleasantries”.