“She came down from the sky one night / She came down from the stars / She came to save the human race / But she just gets drunk in bars.” So begins the first, tongue-in-cheek, swirling-guitar-saturated, cosmic-fun-house track, “She’s An Alien,” from Chicago-based neo-psychedelic rock band The Red Plastic Buddha (RPB) in its third album, Songs for Mara.
Taking its title from the story of Prince Siddhartha’s battle against the demon of illusion to reach enlightenment, Songs for Mara leads listeners through an aural phantasmagoria. Whether listening to the songs will lead the to the death of the ego and a state of nirvana-like Buddha-hood is highly improbable, but pay the money and take the ride anyway — for, as Jim Morrison said, “No one here gets out alive.”
Drawing inspiration from The Doors, The 13th Floor Elevators, and Love (the RPB even convincingly covers “A House Is Not a Motel”), the band delivers a fine album of lo-fi, grooved-out tunes filled with tanpura, sitar, flute, tambourine, and keys, in addition to the standard instruments. The album’s second track, “Little White Pills,” scores big with a Ray Manzarek‒worthy “Riders On the Storm”‒esque keyboard intro, while “Staring into the Void” is the band’s brown acid “Revolution 9” moment. However, the high-water mark is “Being Human,” on which frontman/bassist Timothy Ferguson becomes uncomfortably numb. Ultimately, Songs for Mara is recommended listening for battling — or indulging — one’s demons.