Matthew Smith is one of those kids in the rock 'n' roll sandbox. His playmates include Brian Wilson (of course!) — but over in the corner — hey, hey — it's the Monkees; out back is the Velvet Underground's Maureen Tucker; and looking glum and serious somewhere in the middle of the box are the cosmic Germans, including assorted members of Ash Ra Tempel, Can and Faust.
It's a cutesy hipster fantasy, sure, but an instructive one when listening to Smith's 10 new songs on Universal Malcontents, the 13th (or maybe the 14th or 15th, especially if you count singles and EPs) release by his Hamtramck-based quartet, Outrageous Cherry. With a shifting lineup of rhythm sections and obscure labels — and only grizzled guitar mate Larry Ray along for the far-out ride since around '92-'93 — Smith has held the ship steady by wedding his wide-ranging inspirations to a strangely original mind.
At first, the intro to "Recognized Her," the lead song on the new LP, comes at you like something off T. Rex's Electric Warrior. But then this ghostly evocation, if you want to call it that, quickly disappears and is replaced by nutty piano and squirrelly guitar runs and a chorus of sha-la-las, all curiously catchy and lovable. Better yet are the darkly funny and hard-charging rockers "It's Not Rock 'n' Roll (and I Don't Like It)" and "I Wouldn't Treat My Enemies the Way You Treat Yourself," songs that, in fact, have a more indelible Smith footprint.
Outrageous Cherry's freakout jam-band loyalists might find themselves wanting with the material on this disc, but that's perhaps more than made up for with the jangly cruiser "The Song Belongs to Everyone," the black-hearted ballad "Feels Like Shadows," and "Outsider," a drowsy, midtempo, countrified bubblegum psych-garage smash that conjures Love's Forever Changes and drinking dandelion wine on the eternally sun-drenched hillsides of an imaginary 1967.
Walter Wasacz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.