The Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange

Categories: Nothing Not New

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Fresh & Onlys, Play It Strange
Artist: The Fresh & Onlys
Title: Play It Strange
Release date: October 12
Label: In the Red

And just like that, I find myself a little bored by the sound plied and, possibly, perfected by San Francisco's The Fresh & Onlys. It's the sound that has passed for garage rock for over a half-decade now -- one that favors country, folk, and psychedelic elements over the punk 'n' roll and trash aesthetics.

You can trace the 21st-century evolution of garage to Greg Cartwright's about-face in sound and style after his Oblivians (as essential a garage-punk band as there was in 1990s) broke up and he formed The Reigning Sound, a project that showed off Cartwright's songcraft and an understanding of American musical idioms (country and blue-eyed soul, for example) that went usually went unheard in 1990s garage rock.

Then, the Black Lips slipped some psychedelia into the mix a few years back, and here we are, entering 2011 with the standard garage rock band playing not speedy and sneering (or smirking) three-chord rock but a twangier, reverb-drenched, lysergic mid-tempo cross between The Stones (when they dabbled in country, that is) and Roky Erickson. In other words, a more true nod to Nuggets than any of the 1990s garage bands were.

But like I said, I'm kinda over it now and I have The Fresh & Onlys to blame. Though to be fair to TF&O, this year alone, bands like The Strange Boys and Harlem helped me along the way. As I listened to Play It Strange several times, I kept thinking of how they sound like a slightly more accessible version of The Goodnight Loving, who, to me, are the best of the many bands (outside of the standard-bearing Reigning Sound) doing the garage-Americana thing and released a more entertaining record than Play It Strange earlier this year.


For the psych-pop I hear in TF&O, I'll take Kelley Stoltz instead; for the country and old-timey flavor, I'll refer to Goodnight Loving; for the flower punk, I'll stick with Black Lips; and for the creeping 1980s influence, I'll take the Soft Pack.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Play It Strange. The band is strong and talented, the songs are decent, the ideas are abundant, and I generally like where The Fresh & Onlys are coming from. It's just that I feel like I've been there too often recently. I'll stick Play It Strange on my shelf and pull it out a couple of years from now and probably dig it a lot more than I do now. 




The Fresh & Onlys - "Waterfall" by OctopusWindmill

Best song: "Waterfall"
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: Goodnight Loving's Supper Club
I'd rather listen to: Gun Club's Fire of Love or Miami or Las Vegas Story
Grade: C+

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here. The "Nothing Not New" Archives:



October 27 -- The 88: The 88 (B)

October 26 -- Warpaint: The Fool (B+)




September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)







































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