Coupled with the reissue of the better-known but not all that much better Bright Orange Years, Volcano Suns’s sophomore record All-Night Lotus Party also gets the reissue treatment from Merge Records this week. Orange Years is louder and more raucous, and therefore a more curious addition to the Mission of Burma canon (both Burma and the Suns feature Peter Prescott on drums and vocals), but Lotus Party can often seem more enjoyable, as it brings the tightness of Burma’s arrangements to the Suns’s drunken frenzy.
“White Elephant” is nearly as jaw-dropping an opener as Orange Years‘s “Jak,” with its bursts of feedback and Big Black-style guitar pummeling. Prescott’s odd sense of humor brightens a folksy ballad of sorts called “Room with a View,” which, strummed through a distorted guitar, works both as a nice love song and as a skewering of heart-on-its-sleeve indie rock like the Replacements’s “Answering Machine.” This balance of sincerity and irony affects the best tracks on the album, from the hardcore-fused “Walk Around” to the R.E.M.-style catchiness of “Four Letters.” All of these songs are driven by Prescott’s distinctive holler (one of the most underrated sounds in late rock music), which grounds the album into a natural and exhilarating flow. As John Peel famously said about the Fall’s music, these songs are always different and always the same.
The bonus tracks on Lotus Party are, on the whole, a more intriguing bag of tricks than those that accompany Merge’s reissue of Orange Years. Volcano Suns was one of the most playful of American post-punk bands and that is never more noticeable than in the bizarre “dub” version of “Walk Around” or on a radio performance of Leonard Nimoy’s “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” In addition to all the goofiness is “Magic Sky,” an outtake as grand as any of the album tracks. If you only need one Volcano Suns album, go with Orange Years. But completists will not regret having Lotus Party on their shelves either.