This one is a case of the Band That Never Did.
Cosmic Rough Riders hit a peak of press and commercial notability in 2001, with a sudden concentration on the West Coast Psychedelic aspects of their name, and their fascination with a West Coast sound of dreamy acoustic guitars and harmonies, all set against the fact that the Cosmics were actually five lads from Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine was the band’s third album, after two self-released efforts. It was released on a one album deal by Poptones, the label Alan McGhee formed after Oasis, though it consists mainly of re-recorded versions of tracks cut for their first two, very limited edition, releases. The title and the psychedelic art play up the cosmic aspect, as did songs like ‘Glastonbury in the Sun’ and ‘Revolution (in the Summertime?)’
This latter was one of the band’s first two ‘hit’ singles, accompanied by Top of the Pops appearances for this and follow-up ‘The Pain Inside’. The singles peaked at 36 and 35 respectively.
An ad hoc album, Pure Escapism was composed of a series of bonus tracks on CD singles, but by the time the band recorded their fourth album, Too Close to See Far, lead singer and co-lead songwriter Daniel Wylie had left the band to pursue a solo career (I never heard of him again) and the band were carrying on as a four-piece, with co-founder and guitarist Stephen Fleming as lead singer and main songwriter.
But without Wylie’s contributions to their songs, the spark had gone, even though two further singles reached the Top 40, the first of these, ‘Because You’ giving them their commercial peak on 34. One more album was released in 2006, the band by now a three-piece, and then they vanished.
Listening to the CD again, it hasn’t worn well. It has to be said that the title’s pretty clunky to begin with. As for the music, I’ve never been entirely convinced by this ‘West Coast’ sound: there are bands that can subsume themselves in the music of a specific period, to the extent that they not merely reproduce it but can extend it, because they know intimately what goes into such music, but the Cosmics did not do that. There’s a separation between the acoustic-dominated backing tracks and the harmony/vocals that introduces a sense of thinness to the overall sound, where ethereal was clearly the intent, and too much of a distance between Wylie’s vocals and the rest of the band’s harmonies.
Instead of being harmonies, in the ensemble arrangements of bands such as The Beach Boys and The Association, Cosmic Rough Riders are very much lead singer and back-up.
Listening again, the songs come over as somewhat stilted, the lyrics not flowing to any noticeable degree. Yet there’s the sense that, given a little more time, the Cosmics could have improved, become closer to what they were being praised for than they were in actuality. Rock is full of bands like that.
Listening to this as a one-off, I was inclined to move it on, but a couple more plays, in which the set seems to take on a greater shape, have persuaded me to give it a stay of execution. Until next time, at least: don’t go looking on eBay just yet.