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The Fresh & Onlys - Long Slow Dance

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Artist: The Fresh & Onlys

Album: Long Slow Dance

Label: Mexican Summer

Review date: Sep. 4, 2012

OK, guys. Somebody make a move. I’m talking to you, Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Fresh & Onlys, etc., etc. You’re too young to be repeating yourself, but have been at it long enough to know better. Stuck in the middle is a hard place to be, I know. But the only way out is up.

Before we get carried away, let me be clear. I’m not convinced any of the aforementioned are bad bands -- in fact, I’m pulling for them. After a point, though, one starts to wish someone in the scene would take it up a notch and do something unexpected -- hell, even try to make a “statement.” Instead, what development we’ve seen has been of the incremental variety -- measured in degrees over the course of too frequent and numerous releases to itemize. We need to start making a delineation here. Releasing records is not in and of itself a means to prolonged relevance.

Although the field competition is stiff, The Fresh & Onlys have held their own among the main offenders in this division. When they hit the scene four years ago, what now feels like a lifetime ago, it felt like they could be a contender. The early records, while not revelatory, showed a band with a firm grasp of the garage-pop form and a lot of promise. Sadly, nothing in the subsequent slew of releases has quite managed to deliver on that promise. To be sure, every release has one or two un-smashable riffs or melodies that will lodge themselves in the craw until the next one comes along, but any advances made are quickly squandered. The payoff never comes. They’re not quite getting there.

What is it that’s holding them back. What’s not working? I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but with Long Slow Dance I think I know what the problem is: no songs. Like many who’ve passed through this gauntlet before, The Fresh & Onlys are suffering the pains of pulling back the veil of lo-fi. As the fidelity increases, so must the true flesh and blood of the song stand naked under scrutiny.

To not be great all the time is human, but The Fresh & Onlys seem to be moving further away from those early glimpses. The musicianship, melodies, and performances are sound, but hollow. Everything does what it’s supposed to do, without ever fully engaging on any real emotional, human level. Tim Cohen’s melodies and lyrical concerns have always been of the Orbison/Holly school of lovesick crooners, but their implementation is retreating into a realm of cliché bordering on shtick. Instead of pulling the heartstrings in question, the stale sentiments here come off like low-hanging fruit from an (unreleased) Psychedelic Furs track. If you’re going to dumb it down this much, as least shoot for the moon and try to write a hit. Go for it! Do something! I don’t love The Dum Dum Girls, but at least Dee Dee is managing to sell the Big Dumb Love Song. Putting her neck out with big, grand gestures and daring us to take a swipe. Playing it safe is the biggest problem with Long Slow Dance, and The Fresh & Onlys in general.

The one exception here nearly comes too late. Buried at the bottom of the record, “Foolish Person” is by far its longest song, and the most compelling thing this album has going for it. Precisely because it’s blown out, the slashing guitars and strained enunciations don’t sound like everything else here. It sounds real. It sounds like they’re taking chances -- something this band is going to have to learn to do more of, and quick, if they expect to hold the momentum they’ve managed to build.

By Jon Treneff

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