The Fresh & Onlys - Play It Strange (In The Red)

04 Nov 2010

“after closer examination and peeling back of the layers, the record develops from a generally pleasant preliminary listen to eleven tracks with quite fascinating individualistic personalities hidden within....”; release - 2010

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If the space time continuum was musically based, then it would almost certainly look like the world’s most vomit inducing rollercoaster, endlessly doing loops back on itself in its progression forward, constantly taking a glimpse of the past in formation of the basis to move ahead. Of late there have been a number of bands with a particularly retrospective view on the way they create their music - Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, Morning Benders to name but a few - and The Fresh & Onlys certainly join this bracket.

It’s by no means a bad thing to recreate the spirit and take influence from the past, but it can of course be a band’s downfall if they fail to take those ingredients and carve out a sound of their own. Luckily The Fresh & Onlys seem to “get this” as bassist Shayde Sartin states “We’re trying to re-invent something, to make it our own…to hear someone say ‘That sounds like a Fresh & Onlys song’ that’s the best accomplishment I think one can have.” With core iconic , 60’s influences encompassing the likes of Scott McKenzie, The Byrds and The Mamas and The Papas, competing directly would be a hefty feat.  Instead within their jingly jangly, lazy, wistful style, they maintain an element of garage rock in combination with guitar indie reminiscent of The Go-Betweens, country folk and melancholic surf pop along the lines of The Jesus and the Mary Chain.

They are of course not green to this band lark, having amassed a fairly enviable collective experience between members, with their Fresh & Onlys incarnation having enjoyed a good few years of existence now. The band have been happily churning out a regular instalment of 7” as well as LP’s of which Play it Strange is their third, however there is something entirely new in this most recent of offerings. The Fresh & Onlys have employed a more structured approach moving away from their lo fi, DIY methods, evident in previous releases, enlisting the help of Tim Green (The F**king Champs, Comets on Fire) as producer. Using his home studio they have gained access to an array of instruments not usually at their disposal such as the baritone guitar, Vibraphone and ARP Synthesiser adding a greater depth to their sound exposing the subtleties and melodious pop hooks that have until now hidden amongst the trademark reverberation. 

Play it Strange is a joyous listen and if you’re told otherwise, check the heart of the would be offender as there is a strong chance they might not possess a functioning one. Unveil the melancholic overtone, and it sounds as though there was a lot of enjoyment taken from the making of this album, and the transition of that joy certainly benefits the listener’s ear.

Opener ‘Summer of Love’ holds a lazy 60’s spirit that is certainly a nod to those who have walked the jingle jangle guitar pop route before. What becomes evident though is the various layers of influence held within the 11 tracks, from the country folk tinge evident in the fantastically constructed ‘Strange Disposition’ to the grunge like connotations of ‘Fascinated.’ Lyrically the baritone voice of Tim Cohen conveys hazy romanticisms, solitude, and life without definition. ‘Waterfall’ particularly paints a wonderfully contradictory series of retorts between the TV and the radio that really captures the imagination, “You and I know from the radio that the radio never lies, well the radio said that the TV’s Dead…..the TV said that you can’t believe everything that you hear…,” the subdued vocals sounding almost manipulated by the mediums.

There are a number of highlights with the guitar led pop hooks complimenting the numerous antics within Play it Strange like the quite stomping ‘Who Needs a Man’ and the soft fragile ending of ‘I’m a Thief,’ but the garage rock opening of ‘Tropical Island Suite’ that blurs in to a mess of noise around ‘2.50’ only to be lulled into a quite soothing lumbering lazy piano caressed piece is quite, quite brilliant.,

There is, on initial listens, an element of “tuning in” needed to the languorous drifting style of The Fresh and Onlys, and at times lyrics get blurred amongst the messy reverberations. This can also result in some tracks losing their immediate prominence, but after closer examination and peeling back of the layers, the record develops from a generally pleasant preliminary listen to 11 tracks with quite fascinating individualistic personalities hidden within.

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