Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

September 11–18, 1997

fall arts focus|stones soul picnic

Far Out, So Close

This fall sounds like the Summer of Love.


The Three 4 Tens

Break out the face paint, colored beads and incense because two very groovy local bands are having record release parties this month. As long as the pigs don't crash these happenings, they promise to be beautiful shindigs for all the children of the revolution. If you can't be there, pick up their platters when you're ready to tune in and turn on.

The Lucys' first full-length, Anselmo (Compulsiv), is the perfect music for those late nights at the coffee house, poring over heavy prose. The Three 4 Tens' new EP, Throwback Move with the Three 4 Tens (Lounge), is full-on freak out filled with blistering acid rock.

"My parents were hippies, but not in the bad sense," says Jesse Jameson, frontman for The Lucys. He's a little cagey about his birthright, afraid of being pegged as a long-haired, macrame-loving burnout. Jameson's mother and father never drove across country in a Volkswagen bus, but have always been avid music fans. It's almost hard to believe that the clean-cut, low-key Jesse Colin Jameson was named after Jesse Colin Young of the free-lovin' folk-rock band The Youngbloods.

"That's kind of weird," notes the 25-year-old, visibly embarrassed.

It wasn't unusual to hear The Beatles, Bob Dylan or David Bowie at the Jameson house in Plymouth Meeting. Unlike most rockers, Jesse didn't rebel against his parents' tastes, but came to appreciate them at a young age.

In early '96, Jameson began recording songs as The Lucys, playing both guitar and drums. Guitarist Joe Kim (who played with Jameson in the group Pale) and bassist George Loving filled out the group. Still searching for the right sound, Jameson recorded a few songs playing all of the instruments himself. More recently he recruited onetime Moped member Bret Tobias to play drums and Joey Sweeney on bass. All three configurations can be heard on Anselmo. Completed over a year and a half span, most of the album sounds like it was committed to tape in one session. Jameson's sprightly acoustic guitar and woebegone vocals are the defining factor. They have wry sweetness akin to The Kinks' Ray Davies. Reflections on pained relationships pepper the lyrics, but this songwriter hesitates at specifics.

"I have a bad habit of writing things in my lyrics instead of saying things to people," he admits.

In fact, he's a little uncomfortable about revealing too much for fear of coming off as pretentious. Only after a lengthy pause does he explain that the album title refers to a character from Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

"I really just like the sound of the name," he adds.

Anselmo's simple brown cover is similarly understated.

"I just like to let the album be."

Luckily, the music speaks for itself nicely.

The Three 4 Tens' sound fell together a little more haphazardly than The Lucys'. Guitarists Joe Tagg and Brian McNamara, and bassist Jaime Mahon started jamming together just for fun about a year and a half ago.

"We were just goofing around with tons of effect pedals," recalls McNamara. "Eventually we threw all of the pedals out of the window and started writing songs." Mahon then recruited drummer Joe Kiss, who he was playing with at the time in the King Crimson-esque band Invid.

"They wanted me to play like Ringo Starr," recalls Kiss, "and I wasn't into that idea. Ringo just doesn't rock." The drummer had moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh a couple of years ago in hopes of hooking up with a progressive or metal band. "I just decided to play a little heavier and trashier."

The quartet's combination of bouncy chord progressions, double-tracked harmonies, trippy leads and scattershot drumming comes off like dead-on acid rock. Throwback Move with the Three 4 Tens could easily have been made in 1968, except the members of the band (all in their early 20s) weren't even born then. Recorded by John Loverich in only three days, the seven songs would fit perfectly onto an early Pink Floyd album.

Yet the Three 4 Tens don't consider themselves a retro band. "I think we all have very different tastes, from metal to new wave, and if we didn't, the band wouldn't come off sounding the way it does," figures Kiss.

What about that oh-so-appropriate band name, which refers to the price Mahon used to charge for tabs of acid — three for $10?

What about Mahon's and Tagg's overgrown pageboy haircuts and penchant for wearing vintage threads?

"We get dressed up, but it's all very tongue-in-cheek," says Tagg.

"We like to put on a show," adds McNamara. "All the great bands have always put on a great stage show."

Three 4 Tens at a recent gig at West Philly's Fakehouse was like watching a scene from the Monterey Pop Festival. The band stretched their catchy pop numbers into psychedelic jams, gyrating in time to the amoeba light that pulsed behind them.

Certainly those '60s overtones were part of the reason they were picked to warm up for The Who in early August at Camden's E-Centre.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet anyone from The Who," says McNamara with a smirk. "But the lead singer from Drivin' N' Cryin' [the other warmup band on the bill] told me 'You're band is almost as good as mine.'" The biggest thrill was getting a pass that says "Staff Parking — The Who."

"That's something to show my grandkids," adds McNamara.

For now the Three 4 Tens are concerned with getting their songs as tight as possible in hopes of going on tour next spring.

"I know my neighbors — who're cops — must be sick of the tunes we play; they have to hear them over and over," says Mahon. "The other day one of the cops came up to me and asked, 'What's that song you play?' and he starts humming it. I thought: 'There's something wrong with this picture.'"

Acid rock so good even a pig could dig it.

The Lucys will be having a record release party with Lettuce Prey and the Photon Band on Friday, Sept, 12 at The Balcony, 10th & Arch Sts., 922-LIVE. The Three 4 Tens will celebrate the release of their EP with the Unloved and Psychic Friends Network on Friday, Sept. 26 at Silk City, Fifth & Spring Garden Sts., 592-8838.

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