The first thing you notice about the cover of Tripping Daisy's new self-titled album isn't the Brady Bunch motif, a tic-tac-toe board dotted with pictures of the band members and grapefruit halves. No, the eyes travel up and left past singer Tim DeLaughter (in the spot Alice always held) to the photograph of Wes Berggren. It's shaded green, like a Polaroid taken years ago and stored in the backyard shed inside a box. Actually, it's a recent photo, taken before his death last October, which seems forever ago and just like yesterday all at once. Inside, the other four members (DeLaughter, bassist Mark Pirro, guitarist Philip Karnats, and drummer Ben Curtis) dedicate their latest and last to Berggren; this is Tripping Daisy's last stand as Tripping Daisy.
But it isn't a tearful farewell. Instead, this is Tripping Daisy's fireworks-and-hot-fudge-sundaes going-away party -- the exclamation point on a career of catchy melodies, hallucinogenic anthems, and shows filled with paper airplanes and bubble machines. The band recorded the album a year ago and had originally planned to release it in November. It was to be a goodbye to Island Records, the label that had released the group's three previous efforts: 1993' Bill, 1995's I Am an Elastic Firecracker, and 1998's Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb. The disc was also supposed to be a new beginning, one of which they had complete control, releasing albums as they wanted on their own label Good Records. During the months the album was delayed, a few changes were made: "Community Mantra," the last song the band recorded together, was added to the album, and Wes' father, Don Berggren, added a Fender Rhodes intro to the previously unfinished "Soothing Jubilee."
And this is Tripping Daisy at its best. Like the remake of "One Through Four," which was first released on Bill, the band almost comes full circle on Tripping Daisy. It shows that they've grown up despite working in a time machine, looking back at the 1960s and ahead to the 2060s. Pirro's traveling bass line and DeLaughter's vocals still carry the listener through "One Through Four," but this time the path curves through lush scenery instead of zooming across a barren landscape. "Kids Are Calling" jumps and fizzes like Pop Rocks on the tongue with its tangle of strings, keyboards, and the infectious "in the sun" refrain. There are several of Tripping Daisy's signature rocking pop songs, but the band also slows for more symphonic, introspective moments such as the dreamy and beautiful "Drama Day Weekend." When the space after "The Sudden Shift Worried Him" becomes a hidden track (which could have been titled "Break it On Down"), Tripping Daisy and Tripping Daisy end on a smile instead of sorrow. Which was always the band's expertise anyway.