White Fence - Family Perfume Vol. 2
Now that we've been treated to both halves of White Fence's Family Perfume, it seems fair to label it a hot mess. Though, in retrospect, all of Tim Presley's work exemplifies a similar Robert Pollard-esque collagist takedown of Sixties influenced guitar pop, Family Perfume was his incredibly verbose treatise on the style. Far from the momentary weirdness of 'Mexican Twins/Life Is... Too $hort' on Is Growing Faith, this new record embodies said weirdness. Though we've already looked at length at the first half of this messy masterpiece, Vol. 2 of this collection has finally hit shelves and thus provides a suitable antithesis to the unbridled experimentation Vol. 1. That first record was interesting, if nothing else, for this collage-like approach, but Vol. 2 gives us the subtle catchy songwriting promised by early singles.
What most distinguished Vol. 1 from Presley's earlier work, aside from a blatant disregard for traditional songwriting modes, was a greater emphasis on searing guitar exercises than any of his work ever really offered. Continuing in the tradition that 'Swagger vets & Double moon' established, we're presented with a similarly searing start to the album in the one-two punch of 'Groundskeeper Rag (Man's Man)' and 'She Relief'. Although as the majority of 'Groundskeeper Rag' suggests, this isn't the overriding tone of the album as it was in Vol. 1. Instead here we're treated to the acoustic rock of tracks like 'Lizards First' and 'It's Confusing When You Wake Up'. While this style represents more of a return to the sound of his first album, as well as the majority of Is Growing Faith, it binds him more to each song. Where, in the electric format, Presley was free to get noodley and abandon the structure of the track, he is instead reined in and focused, and this results in some of the more powerful compositions of his career.
Though lyrically he deals in the same surrealisms of Vol. 1, there's something more poignant about these lines. With this more focused approach to songwriting, it feels like Presley cares more when he sings things like "I could have lived three times today / It's confusing when you wake up." The lines make no more sense on paper than they would've if present on Vol. 1, but in the context of more well considered songs, they seem to mean a whole lot more.
All of this may seem to suggest that Vol. 2 is a far superior record to its predecessor, but I mean something far from that. Vol. 1 was brilliant for it's refreshing departure in style and for its commitment to half singing half vomiting just about every idea Presley could come up with across nearly 40 minutes. Vol. 2, rather than a simple substitute for Vol. 1, functions as a perfect compliment, shoring up any concerns you may have had about Presley as a songwriter. After the tense, yet beautiful, mess that was the first half of Family Perfume, this record functions as a refreshing taste of what we always knew Presley was capable of. Each half makes the other make a lot more sense.