MUSIC REVIEW | The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun (1968)

Dead 1

The general reputation of The Grateful Dead makes me assume I won’t like their music. What’s more annoying than a 60s burnout hippy? The general reputation of fans of The Grateful Dead makes me even more inclined to assume I won’t like their music. At least the band made music and contributed something to the world. The Dead Head fans who followed them around the country just seem like complete wastes of space and oxygen.

I also assume those fans would think I’m going about things the wrong way by listening to a Grateful Dead studio album. After all, this band was all about the live, jam band experience. But with literally thousands of live releases, official and bootlegged, there was no way to decide where to start with the live gear. Plus, when I saw that Anthem of the Sun had only five tracks making up its 40 minute running time, I figured it would probably give me a good idea of their rambling, extended jam approach to music making.

Opening with the five part That’s It for the Other One, this band does nothing to defy my preconceptions. If you were to make a video of every 60s cliche that makes me assume I would have hatred living at that time, this is the perfect soundtrack. Trippy, lyrics that are like listening to a stoned teenager… Aimless, noodling instrumentation that never finds any sort of centre…   If the phrase “far out man” was ever used to inspire a song, this is the kind of shit that would be spewed out.

As if the title New Potato Caboose wasn’t infuriating enough, the song has to go and be just as shitty as That’s If For the Other One. Actually, New Potato Caboose is even worse. Because New Potato Caboose shows what great musicians and singers The Grateful Dead were, it just uses their immense skills in a terrible, terrible, hippy-terrible ways. If only The Grateful Dead used their powers for good.

I got excited about Born Cross Eyed when I saw that is was under three minutes long. But even then, these A.D.D addled stoners can’t pay attention long enough to make a tight song with any kind of structure to latch on to. In comedy or music, improv can be amazingly impressive, but more often than not, you have to sort through a whole lot of chaff before you get to the wheat. Born Cross Eyed is 100% chaff.

When you’re in a band, and you look at a song you just finished, and it’s over 11 minutes long, your first thought should be, “can we cut this down a bit?”. Then your second thought should be, “is there a percussion solo that’s several minutes long?” If the answer to that question is yes, then you drop the fucking percussion solo. Unless you’re in the Grateful Dead. Then, you let Alligator continue to exist in it’s bloated, indulgent, pointless 11 minute form, and move on. Presumably never able to look at yourself in a mirror again.

Then it all builds to the incoherent, craptacular climax that is Caulton (Do Not Stop on the Tracks). Fucking hippies.

The Grateful Dead

Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Anthem of the Sun?
Rolling Stone
Sputnik Music

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