The Last Hurrah!!: The Beauty Of Fake
Rune Grammofon

Imagine a psych-folk collective barreling through an eight-song suite that sounds like some tripped-out mashup of Van Dyke Parks and Eastern sonorities and you'll have some idea of The Beauty Of Fake's sound. The Last Hurrah!! is the brainchild of Norwegian guitarist-composer HP Gundersen, who surrounded himself for the album with a large cast of musicians, among them drummer Ivar Tormodsæter, singer Heidi Goodbye, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, Hardanger fiddle player Silje Solberg, and Guzheng (zither) player Yuyue Zheng. Gundersen's built up a solid reputation as a producer—he's overseen the creation of over fifty albums and discovered Sondre Lerche—and his previous The Last Hurrah!! release Spiritual Non-Believers was voted album of the year by the Norwegian newspaper VG (Verdens Gang).

The stylistic bent of The Last Hurrah!! comes into clearer focus after one learns that growing up in the ‘60s, Gundersen absorbed The Byrds and The Beatles and monitored closely their forays into Eastern-styled musical territory. The Beauty Of Fake's own pan-global vibe is intimated by song titles such as “In India,” “In Japan,” and “High In Hawaii,” and a narrative is clearly laid out that sees a restless traveler seduced by the lure of travel and exploring exotic lands. Adding to the headrush character of the material, the album's songs are woven together to play as an uninterrupted thirty-five-minute suite, even if a brief pause sometimes indicates the transition from one song to the next.

The Beauty Of Fake's Eastern-styled leanings are immediately evident when the strum of Zheng's Guzheng is the first sound presented in the opening piece “The Rush” and are revisited when Eastern-inflected melodies give the raga-blues hoedown “The Trip” kinetic foreward momentum. A wistful tone seeps into the album when “Lonely Whistle Call,” a song one could easily mistake for a Van Dyke Parks creation, appears, with Goodbye angelically voicing the song's melancholy lyrics.

The good-time singalong “High In Hawaii” proves memorable, while “In India” is especially hypnotic in its use of serpentine vocal melodies and an arrangement so dense its instruments sound like they're emerging from narcotic fog. “Harem For Tourists” is melodically strong, too, though its primary focus is an extended instrumental sequence that paves the way for “In Japan,” which finds Goodbye and harmony vocalist Viktoria Winge paired with the Hardanger fiddle. The press release characterizes Gundersen's consistently enjoyable album as “(c)ountry music meets raga meets psychedelic sugar rush,” and, truth be told, the description isn't far off the mark.

August-September 2013