Recorded over five years with a rotating cast of collaborators, the Lavender Flu’s sidewinding 2016 debut Heavy Air is a headphone masterpiece of deconstructed rock ’n’ roll. Thirty songs deep and 76 minutes long, the album re-introduced ex-Hunches guitarist Chris Gunn to the world as a visionary tinkerer who could transform dissociative head trips into warm and weird sonic bliss.
In the years since recording Heavy Air, Gunn’s erstwhile studio project has cohered into a proper quartet consisting of the Blimp’s Lucas Gunn, Hunches drummer Ben Spencer, and Eat Skull alumnus Scott Simmons. On Mow the Glass, the Lavender Flu’s first album for In the Red Records, the band ditches most of Heavy Air’s addled roaming. While still lit from within by swirling turmoil, Mow the Glass is a more focused exercise in songcraft, a succinct 35 minutes that finds the Lavender Flu funneling their chaotic wont into more “proper” pop forms.
The record begins and ends with an invitation that doubles as sunlit promise and vespertine threat: “Follow the flowers,” Gunn implores on both sides. Given his band’s skill at riding country-tinged lilts into full-blown psych freakouts and vice versa, Gunn’s invitation can and will lead anywhere: a verdant clearing, a freshly filled grave, a glittering ocean, a miasmic swamp.
And that’s the whole thrilling deal with the Lavender Flu. The sonic signposts are legible enough—anyone who’s spent time with Royal Trux’s canted tracks, Black Lips’ rowdy revivalism, or Gunn’s own past work with the Hunches will be more or less comfortable in Lavender Flu’s gnarled world—but they can’t always be trusted. Gunn and his bandmates are wily guides through rock history, and Mow the Grass will spin you around until everything is a beautiful blur.
In the end, though, whether they are flailing full-tilt into the garage rock turbulence of “Floor Lord” or settling into the dreamy Arcadian high of “Reverse Lives,” the Lavender Flu’s many modes and manifestations lead to the same place: a beautiful beyond where everything that falls apart finds itself whole again.