The Fresh & Onlys, The Fresh & Onlys

The Fresh & Onlys, The Fresh & Onlys

Driven by many different muses, from an obvious fixation on the psychedelic occult to the ability to produce straightforward rock ‘n roll, the Fresh & Onlys have provided yet another item to be added to the canon of West Coast psych rock. Drawing from the likes of the cultish Brian Jonestown Massacre and L.A.’s The Warlocks, their songs are simple, unrefined, and tinged with the elemental deeper, double, and many times darker meaning of the psychedelic drama.

Take “Only One I Want,” the first song on the second half of the 14-song album, for instance. Backed by chaotic guitars that seem almost too fast and chaotic for Tim Cohen’s scrambled, mid-range vocals, he sings, “because the way that you are, you are the only one I want.” This would come across as hollow, pedestrian writing were in not for (1) the low-fi production quality, which gives the entire record a warm, spacious, rough-around-the-edges feel and allows for more uninhibited material to make the cut, and (2), when the chorus “Only one I want!” is repeated, it sweeps back and forth between the major and the minor chord, perhaps eluding to psychedelic paranoia and creating a dark side to what would have otherwise been a sunny pop tune.

Other songs, like the Stones-esque opener “Feelings in my Heart,” the shiny “Let’s Hang,” and the revelatory “Love & Kindness,” are saved from 1960s, peace-and-love monotony by the Fresh & Onlys’ ability to coerce a bit of melancholy into their music. It’s this sort of artistic environment the band creates that allows such facile writing while still retaining a level of depth.

Still, the Fresh & Onlys attempt to diversify their sound, and though they don’t move far from the path, they do find themselves on different ground. Perhaps the best song on the album, “Peacock & Wing,” a concoction of early Strokes, punk, and darling female background vocals, has hardly a hint of psychedelia. And the closer track “Arm’s Advice” is a reserved Fresh & Onlys, passing all previous notions to focus on melody and song craft — and sounding eerily like the Velvet Underground.

After “Arms Advice” and “Peacock & Wing,” the band momentarily emerges from the psychedelic mesh with roots, pop-driven rock. “Fog Machine,” “I Saw Him,” and “The Mind is Happy” all show the Fresh & Onlys on their most sober kicks throughout the album. They canter back forth between jangly, fuzzy surf-rock and macabre hymnal to good effect, but perhaps the more interesting moments on the album are when the band decides to depart from any sort of convention and embrace their inner weirdness. “Imaginary Friends” (“I don’t have many imaginary friends / but if I did, I’d live with them / ’til the very end”) gives way to playful, sardonic whims, while “Nuclear Disaster” is a mockingly optimistic view of the apocalypse, as if the Fresh & Onlys were saying, “Let’s just get this over with already, and move on.”

Despite the many-headed psyche that steers the ins and outs of the Fresh & Onlys eponymous debut, a strong panache for straight ahead rock sensibility gives the album cohesion — just as much an ambitious record from a young band as it is an impressive debut.

(Castle Face Records --; The Fresh & Onlys --
BUY ME: Insound

Review by . Review posted Friday, May 1st, 2009. Filed under Reviews.

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