The Fresh & Onlys - Early Years Anthology - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Fresh & Onlys - Early Years Anthology

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2015-08-28

An anthology of songs that ostensibly didn’t make the cut around the time of the self-titled Fresh and Onlys release in 2008, Early Years Anthology justifiably restores these songs to the spiritual well of that album, and to an important period in the band’s genesis. 

The Fresh and Onlys play lovely, carefree songs best described as psychedelic jangle/power-pop. In the formative stages of the band, the San Franciscans obviously threw caution to the wind, and produced some wonderfully loose experimental pop, appearing to have percolated in an entirely spontaneous way.

The heavy reverb, rumbling bass and ringing sirens of the lead guitar give ‘Tongue in Cheek’ a slightly obsolescent 1980s indie sound, but nonetheless excites nostalgia rather than contempt, the insouciant pace and mood supported by a solid psychedelic framework. The sleigh bell percussion caps off an episodic song which somehow manages to hold together brilliantly. 

On ‘Don’t Look Down’, the band seem to have either abandoned close miking, or experimented with an ‘open warehouse’ resonance but with the odd exception of the guitarist playing front and centre spearhead. The proggy organ goes into battle with the guitarist for centre stage on what is, for all that, a fascinating and enjoyable C86-er, with the sound recordist gone awol.    

For all the eccentricity though, the Fresh and Onlys are essentially an alternative pop band, and the twangy guitar, shaking percussion and girly choruses of Seven Directions presages their more recent albums. 

What really sets the Fresh and Onlys apart from the run of the mill psych power-pop stuff is their willingness to experiment, to add a chromatic piano run here (‘Summer Wheels’), a bit of harmonica there (‘Seven Directions’), some crunchy riffs and sweet harmonies here (‘Bomb Wombs’) , some flourishes of surf rock and psychobilly there (‘Stranger in the House’). The homage to the likes of The Cramps, The Seeds and 13th Floor Elevators is conspicuous. Equally conspicuous is the storytelling guitar rock of ‘Double Sided Woman’, which instantly reminded me of Transformer-era Lou Reed. 

While Fresh and Onlys could be raucous (Puppet), they were also adept at settling into unhurried little canters, trotting away through psych-folk jams like ‘Deviants Within’.  

All the while, in any of these styles, they never venture too far from the exquisitely crafted pop song. There may be more density in recent albums, but the ‘see how it flies’ freedom of these early songs has a youthful charm.

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