PASS THE DISTANCE
Original Issue: 1970 Mushroom (100 MR 2)
Reissue: 2004 Durtro/Jnana (DURTRO/JNANA 1970 CD) (Buy it here!!!)
Margot-meter: 5 moons / 5
1 Very Close Friend (1:19)
2 The Courtyard (5:43)
3 What A Day (3:16)
4 Fades (Pass The Distance) (3:39)
5 Jerusalem (6:44)
6 Where's Your Master Gone (3:13)
7 Laughing 'Til Tomorrow (2:54)
8 Hiawatha (4:58)
9 Patrice (2:49)
10 Big White Car (5:48)
11 Children's Eyes (4:36)
12 Good Morning (3:00)
13 Butterfly (3:27)
14 Colonel Bleep (3:04)
from Foxy digitalis:
I normally don't review reissues. Other rags insist on giving precious print space to Pink Floyd reissues. My problem is not with the fact that I simply don't like Pink Floyd. That's fine, I don't like a lot of music. The problem I have with an independent music site taking the time to write a review of the latest Pink Floyd reissue is that it's a complete waste of time and resources. Everyone knows who Pink Floyd is and knows about their records. Trust me, they haven't changed in 20 years. Reviewing said reissues takes away valuable space from some great, lesser-known band that could actually benefit from the press. I shouldn't be surprised. These are the same 'zines who seem to only review things they are paid to, which destroys any remaining credibility they might have. But I digress...
Simon Finn's "Pass the Distance" has a strange and tumultuous past. It was originally issued in 1970 on Mushroom Records, but subsequently deleted because of issues with the artwork. Thankfully, Durtro has rescued this seminal, acid-soaked masterpiece. Remastered from the original tapes, it's been reissued with loads of additional information. I had heard about this album for years and managed to track down a few songs, but was not prepared for the onslaught of hallucinatory genius that it unleashes.
"Pass the Distance" is the forbearer for all the psych-folk that has been proliferating the airwaves over the past few years. All those brilliant Six Organs of Admittance and Fursaxa records you love owe a lot to this record. Finn was doing all the same things they are now, but he did it 30 years ago. That's what makes this album so impressive. Hearing it completely for the first time recently, it holds up. This could easily be mistaken for something brand new. That's a feat in-and-of itself.
The beauty of this album not only lies in the individual songs, all of which are excellent in their own right, but also in how they are pieced together to create the perfect flow. It's as if this record could not have been sequenced in any other way. Each song moves into the next like an aging artist moving through the various stages of his life. As in life, you can't change how time passes, and so it goes with "Pass the Distance." It goes like this because it has to.
But really, the genius is in the songs. Every one of them is worth mentioning, but I don't have the time or space to go through why each track is wonderful. Instead, I'll focus on the three most impressive, and let me tell you, whittling it down to this trio of songs was not easy. First is the short and whimsical "Patrice." It's near the end of the album and offers a breath of fresh air after some heavier tracks. It's like the period of time right after a midlife crisis where nothing phases you. Life is simply beautiful and you are thankful for all the things in it. This song glides along under the sun without a care in the world. With a combination of acoustic guitar, flutes, and other reed instruments, this has vague hints of Nick Drake, but is distinctly Finn's own creation. "My poetry just lives to guide you, my songs to start your day," he half-whispers. It's these heartfelt and sincere sentiments that make this song great. The overall feel is one of someone in love with someone they view as perfect. It's sappy in all the right ways and simply makes you feel very, very good.
Contrasting the darker undercurrents present throughout "Pass the Distance" with the hopeful hallucinatory anthems it?s full of is "Where's Your Master Gone." This melodic track is like Bob Dylan on acid. With the meandering lead guitar track and minimal percussion accenting Finn's guitar, they create an uneasy, somewhat solemn web for him to sing on top of. His words are gorgeous, and in this context, powerful. It brings to mind the most psychedelic Beatles stuff, but takes it even further. "How do you know when you should set someone to go?" Finn asks. "The wizard spoke his piece, the person at least was never to be born." His soft voice floats in the air like a fine mist spewing from overcast skies. His words evaporate as soon as they're released. "You are no more evil now than man was and is and ever more will be," he sings. It's a powerful castigation, and his words are still relevant today. It's absolutely fantastic.
But on this album, there are nine amazing songs and then there is "Jerusalem." I would rate this as one of the ten best songs I've ever heard in my life. For a song about Jesus and his impact on the world, Finn's lyrics cut like a knife. Brilliant is the understatement of the year. This hallucinatory tale is as moving as anything you'll ever hear, and when Finn lets go with his acid tongue, even the staunchest cynics will be impressed. "And Jesus was a good guy who lived on figs and wine. A political revolutionary out to let you have a good time," he wails. This is somebody who has a true grasp on Jesus the man, which is oft overlooked by Christians. As the church organ drones build in the background, the intensity is turned up notch after notch. It's almost intimidating. "Did he imagine at that moment that 2 million hypocrites would praise his name? And were he now to come down, those hypocrites would crucify him again," he screams. It's biting commentary, and paired with this stunning music, it will do nothing but blow your fucking mind.
If there ever was an essential record to own, "Pass the Distance" is it. This is influential work and for any avid reader of this website, I urge you to go out and pick this album up today. Every word I can use to describe it doesn't do it justice. You have to hear it. You have to experience it. You have to let it run through your veins. Some of these songs are more lighthearted than others, and some take you on an emotional tailspin that you'll never fully recover from. "Pass the Distance" is an album that should have never been in the vaults for 30 years. This is an album that will make you see music differently and pay closer attention to the intricacies therein. Simon Finn's innovative work will stand up with any of your favorite records, and will likely nestle itself comfortably at the top. Absolutely essential. 10/10