The Fresh & Onlys - Long Slow Dance
Is it me or have The Fresh & Onlys gone a bit soft? Long Slow Dance is their fourth album in as many years and sees the band turn their back on their former sentimentality and scuzz formula and adopt more of a Hi-Fi approach-no more garage vocals that sound as if they are being delivered from within David Lynch's radiator, or persistent guitars chugging themselves steadily into a swampy oblivion, instead we are given a very upfront, polished and squeaky clean version of the San Franciscans' garage rock. Unfortunately, blemish free, it proves to be more than a bit dull.
Formerly equated with bands like Crystal Stilts and Crocodiles, the higher production values and simple straight up indie rock anthems place this record more in line with R.E.M or even The Killers, and there is certainly a shift towards a more mainstream sound. The first three tracks provide all the stages of a well meaning U.S. rom com-the heart ache and tears of '20 Days and 20 Nights', the excitement and uncertainty of 'Yes or No' and then the college prom finale of 'Long Slow Dance', with vocalist Tim Cohen hoping for the perfect romance, a million miles away from 'Be My Hooker' on Play it Strange. As the album title may suggest, there are love songs a plenty here, and combined with an at times gratingly optimistic outlook, it can get a bit sickly. 'No Regard' is certainly a low point with Cohen seemingly giving his best Barry Manilow impersonation with his delivery of the line "don't ever wonder why fools fall in love" over jaunty knee slapping guitars.
However, sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, and it's true that some of the album's strongest tracks are kept till last. 'Euphoria' manages to recoup some of the group's attitude, preventing it from becoming a distant memory, while 'Foolish Person' (once you've recovered from the pretty comic opening lyrics about walking into a glass door mistakenly thinking it's open) partially manages to resuscitate some grubby garage spirits with a self indulgent guitar onslaught that faintly recalls Deerhunter's 'Nothing Ever Happened'. It is too little too late though as 'Wanna Do Right By You' plays a soft 50s style swoon as imaginary credits roll down and bring everything to a neat yet unsatisfying close.