by Tim Draut
It’s an Indian summer over here on the West Coast, with bright sunny days and warm fall nights welcoming the changing colors of the leaves. A perfect companion for this season is “Play it Strange,” the latest album from San Francisco garage-rockers the Fresh & Onlys. Released on a label called In the Red Recordings, this is the third full-length LP from the band. The album is a vaguely nostalgic, subtly psychedelic backyard romp that starts very strong and gradually tapers off a little toward the end.
“Play It Strange” definitely has a familiar, old-fashioned feel to it. Rather than a forward progression into uncharted musical territory, the Fresh & Onlys instead offer up a summation of sounds from decades past. This style suits the band well, offering a fresh breath of autumn air to its listeners in an era dominated by noisy post-rock and electronic pop.
“Summer of Love” echoes the dead flowers of sixties psychedelia, while “Strange Disposition” rides the wave between a giddy-up Western and summer surf-rock. “I’m All Shook Up” conjures images of Elvis at the beach, on acid. On “Be My Hooker,” the band sings loud and plays fast for a deeply satisfying rock-n-roll tune. Clear standouts on the album include the radio-friendly “Waterfall,” the catchy “Fascinated,” and the epic garage-rock jam “Tropical Island Suite” which will stay in your head long after the song is over, humming the refrain “Who are we/ my love. “
Although the last four songs are slightly less memorable than the rest, overall, the album is a success. Front man Tim Cohen’s reverberated vocals suitably capture the sound of San Francisco with enough nuances to make him stand out as a great artist. The album’s consistent sound brings together fifties surf riffs, sixties psych-rock, eighties new wave, and nineties shoegaze into something completely new and exciting.
Whether you’re at the beach, in the city, or out in the woods, “Play It Strange” radiates California vibes through and through. This album is a great achievement for the Fresh & Onlys and a strong testament to the band’s potential.
Catch the Fresh & Onlys with Clinic at The Independent on November 19.