Archive cyanotype of a book from the Smithsonian collection by Thomas Smillie, c. 1890
It was only a couple months ago that I was marveling over John Shough's 2000 solo album Utra Vega. Now the follow-up record, Done In Taurus, which Shough has been working on for the last decade, is suddenly here. And it's quite a record - 75 (!) minutes of meticulously-crafted homemade pop music. Shough wears his influences on his sleeve - as the number-one indie producer and hired-gun musician in Dayton, Ohio, he's worked with Guided By Voices and the Breeders, and he loves the same skewed pop sounds that drove those bands.
For an album that has come together over a period of years, Done In Taurus is surprisingly cohesive without becoming boring over its marathon length. The sound of the record is most similar to the whimsical pop of fellow GBVer Tobin Sprout, but with the overt Syd Barrett influence replaced with the glossy '70s pop of Badfinger and Wings. Done In Taurus takes a couple songs to get going, but it definitely hits its stride with its third song "Oh To Stay". This is the song where Shough really starts to employ his reedy tenor to excellent effect, layering harmony vocals expertly and adding a purposefully hilarious yell to punctuate the end of the post-chorus.
The humor of "Oh To Stay" is representative of the album's playful side, which comes up in the sunny-psych numbers like "Good Ship Fireball" and in little instrumental flourishes like the tinkling piano of "Sunday Saloon" and the wheezing, clumsy accordion of "Rooting for Rain". This playfulness is balanced by atmospheric snippets like "Electrical" and "Shatterday", as well as some lion-cub ferocity on songs like "Shoot Him with an Arrow". Done In Taurus is definitely a non-mainstream album that inhabits its own little world, but for people that enjoy visiting the pocket dimensions of eccentric songwriters like John Shough, there's a lot of good stuff to explore in this album's 28 songs.
"Oh To Stay" by John Shough