Ah, reverb. The muse of many an acid-dropping urchin, the effect long ago came to be synonymous with dreamy, psychedelic reveries and a buzzing, sunshine atmosphere. Joel Jerome may be crafting music decades after the effect was first popularised, but that clearly hasn’t dulled his love of the sound as it’s all over ‘Cosmic Bear Jamboree’. It might seem a little strange to single out and focus on his usage of such an effect, but it’s illustrative of a broader love of old-school, classically styled psychedelia, albeit one inflected with an unashamed love of classic pop and rock.
Those two influences come together on the album’s opening track, a cover of T Rex’s classic ‘Cosmic Dancer’. With the original already boasting a headily light-footed, gleefully psychedelic atmosphere, the psych-pop tendencies of T Rex’s version are exaggerated here, with layers of reverb-drenched backing vocal and Jerome’s eager whoops bringing the song’s dreamier aspects to the forefront without fully jettisoning the populist tendencies that made the song a hit. It’s a classy interpretation of the song and a stylistic benchmark for the rest of the album.
Indeed, that same nonchalant space-psych ambience found on ‘Cosmic Dancer’ is found throughout ‘Cosmic Bear Jamboree’ and this is something of a double edged sword. While the mellow, free-and-easy explorations and relaxed ambience of Jerome’s sound is certainly compelling stuff, there’s perhaps not quite enough variety here from both a sonic and structural perspective for the entirety of the album’s 44 minute runtime to remain engaging. Tempos are fairly samey throughout and one or two divergences into sprightlier territory would have only have benefited this mostly mid-tempo set of songs. The sonic palette likewise could do with more variety – as much of a good use as Jerome puts his reverb and flanger pedals to, some dryer moments in amongst the often dense, effects-soaked walls of sound would have given the album a more dramatic sense of impact and variety.
However, look past the, at times overly uniform presentation, and there’s quality songcraft going on here. Although Jerome mostly overtly trades in grandiose, sweeping psychedelia, there’s a clear love of – and skill for – classic pop song writing going on behind the scenes. The wide-scope chorus of ‘I Don’t Wanna Die’ is genuinely catchy and throughout the album Jerome subtly suggests that he may have had more than a few hit singles in him had he been operating in a time when such psych-pop gems had a solid chance of charting.
‘Cosmic Bear Jamboree’ is a likeable, lighthearted set of large scale, ambitious psych-pop songs; whilst it’s a record that would benefit from a more varied approach, that doesn’t detract from the quality of the song and the end result is an enjoyable, worthwhile record for those taken in by the charms of sunny psychedelic indulgence.