Album Reviews

The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance

(Souterrain Transmissions) UK release date: 3 September 2012

Since 2008, San Francisco rockers The Fresh & Onlys have put out three LPs, two EPs and a host of singles. Then there’s the copious amount of side-projects that individual members of the band have undertaken. Long Slow Dance (or LSD, if you prefer) is the latest in this long, almost machine-like, line of releases.

Nothing about what they do is anything new, especially given the scene that they come from, but they still have plenty of good songs to back up their pleasant, blogosphere-friendly aesthetic. Their sound is hazy, twangy and easy-going. But the primary reason why this album is such a joy to listen to is because they make it feel so effortless. Some bands might be accused as coming across as knackered on their fourth album (especially in as many years) but that isn’t the case here. On the contrary, these guys are energised and fired up.

If you care to look at the 12 tunes here on a basic level, they are impeccably crafted, irresistibly catchy and varied. Fire Alarm is the kind of cheery three-minute burst that would get the even the most stubborn of dancers shaking their limbs as is the extremely infectious No Regard. Presence Of Mind is the standout though, for its lush and dreamy tones that instantly transport you to sunnier and more picturesque destinations.

However, when they let down their hook-guard, they can conjure up some boisterous out-and-out rockers at blistering pace. The best of these is the expansive and exhilarating Foolish Person, which goes on for a compelling six minutes. It spends the first half of its running time setting the mood and getting everything in place before they put their foot on the accelerator pedal (which in this instance is marked ‘overdrive’).

There’s also the odd moment here and there that’s either dramatic or unexpected. Take Back The Night comes very close to being a show-stealer with guitar melodies that border on the theatrical, but that title is reserved for the astonishingly beautiful Wanna Do Right By You. It’s only 96 seconds long and is instrumentally sparse save for a delicate piano notes and some laid-back acoustic guitar strums, but it is dazzling in its stripped-down nature as Tim Cohen’s croon juxtaposes nicely with the gorgeous backing harmonies.

So many bands from the West Coast have tried to make LPs that linger long in the memory but plenty of these efforts have run out of steam towards the end. It may well be experience that ensures that The Fresh & Onlys avoid falling through the same trapdoor, but it’s arguably more to do with the fact that they’re solid songwriters. In both being muscular and sparkly, they have made a brilliant album that makes being in a band sound like the most fun thing in the world.

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The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance