Hindu Love Gods
An R.E.M. side project, formed by Mills, Berry and Buck along with the late Warren Zevon on lead vocals, the Hindu Love Gods album was recorded in the mid 1980s while working on Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene. It’s less subtle and idiosyncratic than contemporary R.E.M. albums, and much more resembles the work of a well oiled bar band; Berry sums up the disc well with his comment that “it took us about as long to do as it takes to listen to.”
A collection of mostly blues covers, it’s very much to be taken at face value, and it’s certainly not an essential part of the R.E.M. discography, even though it’s interesting to hear the group let their hair down and play in a more relaxed and less ornate style. Buck in particular, is playing a fuller rhythm sound that’s different than his typical Byrds-derived jangle. Zevon’s vocal swagger is entertaining, full of libido and gusto in songs like ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ (appropriated by Led Zeppelin for ‘The Lemon Song’). It’s entertaining, but the material’s mostly ubiquitous (‘Mannish Boy’, ‘Wang Dang Doodle’, ‘Junko Pardner’) and it’s played straight, so it doesn’t hold up to repeated listens. The exception is a glorious cover of Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’; transformed from effeminate psychedelia into blustery swagger.
I paid $2 for my copy, and it’s going straight into my sell pile when I finish this review, but it’s worth hearing ‘Raspberry Beret’.