The only kind of sex magazine performing to the exquisite, perfumed garden noise of Rain Parade is tender. Maybe this is why Matt Piucci is looking a trifle worried by the dominatrix with the riding crop in Hamburg's Reeperbahn.
"Hey dude, I'm not too keen on the whip." he complains as he poses to have his picture taken.
"Vut eez wrong with it?" demands the woman in black. Her name is Michelle, and a nicer person to be flogged by, one couldn't find in Germany.
"Ah, I'm not into that scene," explains Matt.
"Have you ever tried eet?" interrogates the maitresse.
"No, I guess I haven't," admits the young American singer-guitarist with a shy smile.
"You should," scolds Michelle, "It can take your mind to strange places".
Or your mouth, come to that, as indeed many people do. Rain Parade give a whole new meaning to the term "head music", I thought to myself. Upon turning round to impart this feeble pun to Will Glenn, nicknamed the Vice Chancellor for obvious reasons. I discovered the band's, um, organist had disappeared into the city's flesh furlong. Probably after something bestial, the perverted dog.
As you may have deduced, Rain Parade are everything you didn't expect to taste in a sonic omelette made from the curate's egg of neo psychedelia: intelligence, humour, irony, awareness, pleasure, sensitivity and cockiness, spread so far, over two staggeringly beautiful albums.
'Emergency Third Rail Power Trip' and 'Explosions In The Glass Palace' are the aural equivalent of looking at the malaise of the US through a kaleidoscope, a microcosm of textural distortions in which extremes of dark and light collide. Listen to them and it's like having your ears syringed with fireworks.
To cap it all, the blue touchpaper for the incandescent display - the songs - is equally illuminating. In the space of two albums, Rain Parade have deluged us with a golden shower of truly classic tunes and words. The only other young composer who comes close is the leader of their favourite group, Dan Stuart, of Green On Red.
Forget about all this guff concerning Dandruff Mountains in the Paisley Underground. That's hippie speak by people who wouldn't recognise an elephant if it trod on them. Rain Parade and Green On Redare due to be global entertainment. They are too intelligent to be losers, though it may take Dan Stuart's outfit a little longer, because, unlike Matt and his mates, they don't have the corporate muscle of Island behind them.
More than a euphemism for what you can get your teeth round, 'head music' also bespeaks a certain intellect intent on exploration. Rain Parade don't think it's an accident that they all went to college. Will to study English Lit at Yale, guitarist John Thoman to do an aborted PhD in Psychology, bassist Steven Roback to UCLA Berkley, and drummer Mark Marcum to the Percussion Institute Of Technology. However....
"It's not school that makes us what we are." denies Steve over breakfast. "I think we're more a reaction against school, insofar as it's the institutionalisation of thought and lack of progression."
Since this is already Rain Parade's second interview in Sounds - where were the opposition rags last year? - I don't propose to give you a blow by blow of the band's fairly turbulent history. Consult Nigel Cross' sleevenotes on 'Emergency Third Rail Power Trip' or Edwin Pouncey's feature if you want to catch up. And you should want to, buster.
Nonetheless, it's perhaps pertinent to mention in passing that Rain Parade's main storms have been caused by their drummers blowing out because they couldn't play the parts the group wrote for them. The addition of Marc has stabilised the line-up. Unbelievably, he was rescued from an LA heavy metal scream called VVSI - Very Very Slight Imperfections - "As in diamonds, man the hardest rock," crows Will.
Matt: "It wasn't like 'Hey, let's start a band' and then we started playing music and arrived at the sound. I think we all had the desire to play the music we ended up playing. I think the direction of the band was around before there was even a band."
Steve: "When we started in 1981 we spent a year living in Venice practicing, groping for the sound we knew we'd recognise when we found how to do it..."
Will: "It seems to me The Beach Boys were very much in people's minds when I came."
Matt: "Yeah, 'Pet Sounds', my favourite album of all time."
From a brief flirtation with mersey beat modes, Rain Parade suddenly perfected the instantly recognisable style which persists today. The breakthrough was 'Kaleidoscope', the flip of their first single, according to Matt. The sonic hypnotism had begun. Significantly enough, the band had yet to play a gig when their first vinyl hit the streets.
To be blunt, even though the group's show at Onkle Po's club in Hamburg was more secure than their recent Dingwall's affair - preceded as it was by an acoustic set including a cover of Love's 'Signed DC' - the Parade are not yet a great live attraction in my opinion. Still, they have time on their side.
"That's such an asinine question...who do you think you're interviewing, John Lennon?" growls Matt. "I won't answer that question."
Of course he does, and at length. But do you really want to know pugnacious Piucci once 'tripped' and saw The Byrds live? It's too easy to draw cheap conclusions from that. More to the point is:
"Drugs just exacerbated the schism between formal education and us," says Matt.
Why is it that when I've seen you play live I wish I'd had some LSD?
"I'll tell you why," tirades Matt. "People are really out of touch with their spiritual side in this day and age. Punks are among the worst in that respect. Unfortunately, people have to take something as strong as LSD to get in touch with the more sensitive and gentle side of their existence, which is a pathetic statement on humanity."
Thanks, I'm not talking about lyrics, but sound....
"Our music isn't that visceral, that's why," pinpoints John accurately, "It has no heavy beat, and people tend to think in dualistic terms. So if it isn't body music, it's head music."
Will: "What I get from your statement is that you hear something in our music that you've experienced more directly when you were tripping. I think that's good."
Do punks call you that in America?
Matt: "Not really. Often people who think they're punks, are never punks themselves."
Steve: "It's funny. Only one person has called me a hippie and that was in England at the Island Records party for us. The woman implied that we were all hippies, including her, and I resented that. I think she worked for Melody Maker. We walk the borders between extroversion and introversion, and it's a tenuous zone."
Matt reckons one of the reasons for the existence of Rain Parade is as a reaction against the "facist dictatorship of spead punk and heavy metal in the States. It's easy to go into battle with a machine gun rather than a knife. Clubs where intense volume rock is played are the lonliest places in the world. That's why people get out of their heads to compensate."
Matt: "Frankie Goes To Hollywood, that's all Trevor Horn's work so far as I can see. Not to slag our label mates, but the Frankies are nails in boards, not even fucking human..."
"Reagan, gaaash, don't even mention him," moans Will.
"Because we come from America, people think that we support him. He's horrific, but he did create a sense of community in America by trading on it's worst aspects."
"But so did Hitler," adds Matt with a sarcastic relevance.
"Yeah. He hasn't charted for a while, but Hitler's back catalogue is worth a fortune," continues Will on the trail of good taste.
Matt: "Reagan is similar to Hitler. Rosiland Carter said something brilliant about him. She said Reagan makes us feel comfortable with our prejudices."
So does Thatcher...
Matt: "Thatcher loves him. I'd die to see porno films of them together."
"I think the cartoon pornography in Japan is pretty cool," enthuses John coyly.
"Personally, I like watching guitars getting stripped down," jibes Steve with fine wit. But Will, the Vice Chancellor? Aaaah...
"I love the existence of the most perverse form of animal pornography," admits the organist candidly, "I could talk about what's bad about pornography, it definately reveals something bad about society and me."
Steve: "Whales, dolphins and deep underwater sex, that's cool."
"Nah, anal sex, that's definately the best shot in porn," argues Matt.
"That's true," concurs Will. "I like the idea of being able to see animal sex and contemplate it, but I think the anus is the most erotic thing. Maybe because I had a tough toilet training. My mother used to hold me under the tap."
Funny that. The only sex I can imagine performing to Rain Parade is tender....but I didn't say where.