Most bands vehemently deny that they’re attempting to overtly re-create the sound of their influences, often going to great lengths to distance themselves from their inspirations. The Explorers Club seems to have no such issues with the sounds that inspired them — that’s not to say that they are mere copyists, but rather that they are experts at the art of homage. Much in the manner of the High Llamas or contemporaries like Brent Cash, the Explorers Club set out to salute the sophisticated, forward-looking pop sounds that emerged from L.A. in the second half of the ‘60s. On their first album, Freedom Wind, they focused very specifically on one of their major influences, the Beach Boys, ending up with the greatest album Brian Wilson and company… — AMG 4/5
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…never made. But for the follow-up, the band has branched out a bit.
While there’s an undeniable, late-‘60s sunshine pop vibe to many of the arrangements here, from the vocal harmonies to the horn sections, the Explorers Club nevertheless seems to have simultaneously inched along a little further on the calendar and widened their target. More than anything, Grand Hotel seems concerned with offering up tunes that could have been hits on early-‘70s AM radio. It’s like one of those Have a Nice Day collections of songs by ‘70s one-hit wonders, except that all the tracks are by the same artist. The band hasn’t gotten the Beach Boys entirely out of its system, though, and Pet Sounds-worthy harmonies pop up on even the most ‘70s-sounding of these songs, with agreeable results; Burt Bacharach-style arrangements adorn some tracks as well, enabling the Explorers Club to achieve a kind of momentary state of lounge-pop satori. And one of the most impressive aspects of the whole endeavor is the fact that a bunch of South Carolina musicians were able to spiritually transport themselves so definitively to a Southern California state of mind. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Beach Boys’ engineer Mark Linnett was on board to mix Grand Hotel either.