The Bay Area psychedelic garage rock community that’s emerged in recent years is beginning to suffer from a fate common in many tight knit communities that get pegged as “scenes.” Because they share a certain sound, it’s very easy to lump Sic Alps, White Fence, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees and The Fresh & Onlys together as essentially different sides of the same coin. Of course, like most of these bands, The Fresh and Onlys have always betrayed a fairly diverse range of influences that go beyond simply The Stooges, Nuggets and Blue Cheer.
The truth is, for all of the comparisons and connections to this garage rock-infected scene, The Fresh & Onlys’ latest full length Long Slow Dance at times has more in common with the breezy jangle of Real Estate. Granted, there is nothing breezy in tone lyrically, and songs like “Yes or No?” mix in a decent amount of distortion, but the overall vibe here is just a bit dreamier than it is abrasive. They may hold onto a few hallmarks of garage rock — see the intense solo midway through “Foolish Person” which is reminiscent of early Mudhoney — but they’re not afraid to throw in a little synth a la Wild Nothing or show off their sensitive side. In fact, much of the record is centered on this sensitive side, or specifically the difficulties of love and love lost.
From “Fire Alarm”‘s aspirations “to make it to your bed and fall into your arms” and “I want to save your life tonight” to the chorus of “20 Days and 20 Nights,” which consists of little more than “I Cry and I Cry,” The Fresh and Onlys spend most of LSD attempting to romance or lamenting the after effects of such efforts. Even when the band offsets their sentiments with a playful irony, it usually comes across as an attempt hide the pain. This theme never overwhelms the music and every song on LSD contains a horde of powerful hooks. The gentle, acoustic strums of “Executioner’s Song,” accented by somber horns, never detract from the idea that it is still essentially a pop song. Surprisingly enough, often the most obvious comparison on LSD is actually the lush pop of The Go-Betweens. The incorporation of various ’80s-era influences may be the record’s most inspired decision. The Echo and the Bunnymen-esque “Euphoria,” for one, is a bold, stadium-sized anthem that provides the album’s most transcendent moment.
Unfortunately, despite how successful much of LSD is, there is an inescapable derivativeness hanging over it that tends to diminish its importance to a degree. Why is that feeling harder to shake here than on, say, Ty Segall’s last couple albums, which are equally as imitative? A lot of it has to do with Segall’s beaming persona. In comparison, The Fresh & Onlys can come across as a little anonymous. I can’t help but remember that this album’s predecessor Play It Strange offered much of the same pleasures as LSD, but it took an obligatory revisit prior to reviewing this record to remind me. All scrutiny aside, if Long Slow Dance is meant to simply be enjoyed, even if the album may not hold some greater significance, there’s still plenty to love about it.