Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Fresh & Onlys – ‘Play It Strange’ (In The Red)

Imagine how pop music in the 1960’s would have sounded like if it had fused together the psychedelic experimentation's of the same era. Well, San Franciscan quartet The Fresh & Onlys are possibly the band that would have made this kind of music. Except fourty years down the line and with this record already being their third album coupled with copious amount of 7 inches, EP’s and independent cassette releases, ‘Play It Strange’ seems to despite all this, be in sync with the scene that is coming out of California.

Right from the kick off, with ‘Summer of Love’ the title alone is descriptive of 1969 with a lo-fi number that The Doors and The Byrds would have been proud of. A marvellous introduction to the record that provides a noise from guitar pedals with a punch that would also sound completely non offensive to an older mature audience that would more often than not consider this sound in thee old “what’s this racket! This is just noise!” tag. ‘Play It Strange’ continues in a similar vein throughout. When we get to ‘Tropical Island Suite’ which is no doubt the standout track on the album, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the strongest number. A near 8 minute jam which starts off in the usual garage-pop manner until the repetitive hazy guitar rhythm and the harmonised “ooh’s and aah’s” in the vocals carries the track nicely. ‘All Shook Up’ with another sixties reference, this time to the Elvis Presley hit of the same name shows some variation from the Pop tones we’ve been getting so far. Here they feature more garage rock and rockabilly vibes represented in a track with a ‘bad ass’ attitude.

What works with this LP is that it more or less sticks to a formula without sounding boring or repetitive. With many post Psychedelic Lo-Fi bands to come out at the moment the noise often covers over what’s underneath. The Fresh & Onlys, however still demonstrates great musicianship across the group. ‘Who Needs a Man’ shows a filling Colm Ó Cíosóig style drumming that lacks in the other tracks. The album ends in a similar way to how it begun with perhaps the strongest and poppyest yet, in the form of ‘I’m a Thief’. A gorgeous example of a 60’s pop ballad from... err... the twenty-first century.

‘Play It Strange’ is certainly not the most original album the world as ever heard, but then again that’s not the intention. Lead singer Tim Cohen’s objective is to write a good pop song. And he’s succeeded in writing eleven of them which are very much a sign of the Indie times, adding The Fresh & Onlys to the list of the current crop of Californian Psych-Fi musicians. One of which include Thee Oh See’s where John Dwyer personally recommended me to this band. I’m glad he did.

Words: Freddy Rothman

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