[BAROQUE POP] Robbie Augspurger may have been born in the wrong decade. In his photography, the Portlander captures contemporary characters in classic formal poses, their hair neatly slicked or brushed or defiantly feathered. His subjects, awash in gold, cast vacant stares somewhere out of the frame. These are senior photos gone awry, and stuffy business portraits meant to be hung in drab government offices. None of them look like products of the last 30 years.
Augspurger’s musical project, Ozarks, evidences a similar relationship with the past. He doesn’t long for the golden age of minimal psychedelic pop, he’s just hell-bent on rebuilding it—every delicate acoustic guitar strum, doubled electric guitar solo, organ blast, tambourine hit and druggy bass line—for his own contemporary purposes.
On that obsessive-compulsive front, Ozarks—built by Augspurger and his friend Eric Adrian Lee—is a huge success. The record opens with “I’m Never Bored,” a floaty slow-dance number that gives nods to both Pet Sounds’ vocal harmonies and the Velvet Underground’s most lethargic deep cuts, and never considers betraying its own aesthetic for the next 40 minutes. The Beatles-inspired sound is nothing less than majestic throughout.
Augspurger isn’t quite as mature a songwriter as he is a producer—his best songs are lyrically vague and often terrifying, as on “Her Hands” and the thickly orchestrated “Red in Tooth and Claw”—but when lucid he resembles a hippied-out Alex Chilton, with whom he also shares a natural, if anxious, delivery.
Function takes such a back seat to form on Ozarks’ debut, though, that one hardly notices shortcomings. High on ’60s flattery as the disc may be, it works hard enough to earn itself authenticity in the process. Like Augspurger’s portraits, the meaning here is eclipsed by a wholly realized, almost blinding excess of style. Ozarks is a really amazing soundtrack in search of a film.
SEE IT: Ozarks plays the White Eagle, 836 N Russell St., on Friday, July 13. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.