The Three O'Clock stopped on the set of the Conan O'Brien show to perform "With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend" to an international audience. The irony of course, is that when that incendiary power-pop nugget was unveiled on the band's 1982 Baroque Hoedown ep, it was of an era when only the most mainstream of music acts had access to the late night TV circuit. Yet despite an almost 25 year layover, the ageless Michael Quercio and his compatriots completely fulfilled on the promise of the posthumous, snowballing legend of the Three O'Clock that had been quietly accumulating over the past two decades. (BTW, the Conan appearance was one of many reunion gigs, which included a performance at Coachella the same month).
And what of that "legend" I just spoke of? Alongside other southern Cali aggregations of the mid-80s, the Three O'Clock were fixtures and figureheads in a mini-movement commonly referenced as the Paisley Underground, that also included the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, and The Last. The Paisley tag was a tip of the hat to the swarmy, psychedelic undercurrent that permeated the sonic textures of that vanguard, however it's application to The Three O'Clock was just about as useful as the dystopian "emo" nomenclature that was casually thrown at bands like Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Day Real Estate in the '90s. If anything, TOC's defining facet was Quercio's falsetto croon and pretty new wave flourishes. Definitely more dB's than Jefferson Airplane, if you catch my drift. There wasn't a particularly "trippy" subtext to the bulk of TOC's catalog, save for some occasional Roger McGuinn inspired guitar jangle that imbues vintage pearls like "Stupid Einstein" and "In Love In Two." Not coincidentally both of those titles made the final cut for the newly released The Hidden World Revealed, a twenty song compilation predominately comprised of unreleased material, neglected fan club singles, and import only tracks, some dating as far back to the dawn of the Reagan era.
In the midst of the rewarding flow of rarities are several signature pieces, including the aforementioned "Cantaloupe Girlfriend" and just as key, "Jet Fighter" from the first TOC full length, Sixteen Tambourines. Grand without the burden of grandiosity, "Jet Fighter" transports the "car song" aesthetic 30,000 feet into the atmosphere, and is one of the greatest "lost" anthems of the wave era. Bearing a smoother hue, "Stupid Einstein," "I Go Wild," "A Day in Erotica," are equally as sublime, and even if you've heard the original incarnations the latter two appear here in unreleased versions. In regards to some of the other treats that stuff-up the unreleased portion of Hidden World, it's relieving to hear a horn-less mix of "In My Own Time," plus an acoustic demo of "The Girl With the Guitar" (co-written by Quercio and the late Scott Miller) and a crude garage recording of a Salvation Army (pre-TOC) song are the icing on a succulent cake. If this is all new to you, Hidden World is a fine jumping off point, but I would equally recommend exploring the Sixteen Tambourines/Baroque Hoedown CD/digital reissue on Frontier Records.
The Hidden World Revealed is available through Amazon and iTunes.
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