Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cure For the Common Reverb: The Fresh & Onlys

As far back as one can start calling the genre 'indie rock,' there has always been the ebbing and flowing of influencing bands and musical trends. In 2004, for example, everyone was all about the 80's Duran Duran synths or the Gang of Four hi-hat drum beats (see: The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party). Nowadays the indie blogosphere is all about bands bringing back the sounds of the garage - simply structured three-chord songs soaked in reverb and ready for a sunny afternoon ride to Venice Beach. Countless bands are getting attention for their throwback sound, from Best Coast to Dum Dum Girls to, more recently, Tennis. I'd be willing to bet that if you played all three of the aforementioned bands back to back to back that the casual listener wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.

One band that stands out among their revivalist peers is San Francisco's The Fresh & Onlys, particularly on their latest offering, Play It Strange. Yes, the reverb is there, as is the Beatlesque drumming, and, thankfully, the melodies. But what makes Tim Cohen's outfit stand above the rest are the numerous influences that he and his band-mates draw upon. Take the album's closest thing to a single "Waterfall," which evokes a certain California meets the Wild West type of imagery... passing a flask of whiskey on the back of a flatbed truck through the plains and onward to Denver, perhaps? The opening track "Summer of Love" plays faithfully to the band's hometown Hippie-dom, and even traces of The Stooges give way to pianos and chugging acoustic guitars on "Tropical Island Suite." "Who Needs a Man" plays on the band's Joy Division influence, with those hi-hats and fuzzy low-end.

The Fresh & Onlys wear their influences on their sleeve, but not to a fault. Play It Strange may be the best garage-rock-revival records of the year thanks to Tim Cohen's smarts to look outside the blogosphere for influence. Next time you have a long nighttime drive ahead of you -preferably through a desert - do yourself a favor and Play It Strange.


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