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The Fresh & Onlys - The Fresh & Onlys

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Artist: The Fresh & Onlys

Album: The Fresh & Onlys

Label: Castle Face

Review date: Apr. 14, 2009

The Fresh & Onlys shambles barefoot through Summer of Love-style guitar and tambourine jams, strewing lyrical oddities and flower garlands along the path that leads, if not to where Syd Barrett lives, at least to Dan Treacy’s neighborhood. Led by Tim Cohen, ex of the underrated Black Fiction, and now sometime supporter of Ty Segall, the band channels the zonked hippie overload of the 13th Floor Elevators and the lo-fi whimsies of Treacy’s Television Personalities. Shayde Sartin and Wymond Miles, both of the extended Skygreen Leopards family, join in for dense jangles of psychedelic guitar and half-tuned, echo-canyon harmonies. A plurality of band members seem to have worked with Kelley Stoltz at one point or another, and picked up a bit of his funhouse pop aesthetic.

Lyrically, these songs are down to earth with none of the hearts and unicorns-style excesses of typical 1960s-influenced compositions. Things do turn a bit twee with “Imaginary Friends,” a song in the Barrett fey pop tradition, though it’s worth mentioning that the lyric is “I don’t have many imaginary friends / but if I did I would live with them until the very end.” Notice the “if” – even when Cohen turns fanciful, even when he imagines madness, he remains grounded in the real world. Later, he turns the very positive phrase, “What’s good for the body is good for the mind,” into a psych-redolent, reverb-shimmering chorus. This is a healthy, balanced kind of tripping, all 1960s excesses viewed through a practical prism.

Production on this self-titled debut is rough and echo’d, giving guitar-vamped sing-alongs like “Shattered Moon” a mod, Pebbles aura. Squint sideways, and you could easily imagine these tracks turning up in a jumble sale crate, day-glo album art cracked and dog-eared from years of storage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. “Feelings in My Heart” swaggers unsteadily on a giant Spector beat, its everyone-together-if-not-exactly-in-tune chorus swelling, its surf-psych guitars criss-crossing in paisley anarchy. Spooky menace lurks in the cavernous echoes of a good number of these songs. “Endless Love,” which is not a song from the Brooke Shields movie, drives as hard and slantwise as a Michael Yonkers’ song, breaking into group “na na na na nas” that have no intention of taking a sad song and making it better. “I looked in…the abyss…I saw him,” sings Cohen on the teeth-rattling, maniac-surf, shout-along “I Saw Him,” and you remember how psychedelia can turn scary in the right hands.

Yet even when it’s a bit ominous, this Fresh & Onlys debut is pure tie-dyed fun, a guitar-strumming, tambourine rattling ramble through Nuggets-land that never sags into nostalgia.

By Jennifer Kelly

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