California’s Fresh & Onlys have long since moved on from their wailing garage rock beginnings (the extraordinary ‘Fog Machine‘ is still a favourite at Russell Towers), and now specialise in run-of-the-mill indie rock with dark, sleazy garnishes that don’t quite convince. Wolf Lie Down is their sixth album and despite being bookended by two very wonderful songs indeed, it’s not an album that has me looking forward to their seventh.
It all starts so well with the title track, a chugging slice of fuzzed-up surf rock with enigmatic, sinister lyrics (“I wake up on the floor with a man in my room“) and a catchy na-na-na chorus; and it all ends so well with the lovely, melancholy country/psych of ‘Black Widow‘. If this was a two-track EP, I’d be hailing it was one of the releases of the year. Unfortunately it’s an eight-track album and the stuff in between is unremarkable in the extreme.
‘One of a Kind‘ would make a decent 3-minute pop song but for some reason it’s dragged out to over 6 minutes; ‘Walking Blues‘ is a pleasant piece of indie-pop whose opening line – “I’ll sing the blues, but you won’t believe me” – sums up the unconvincing nature of the band’s performance; ‘Dancing Chair‘ takes a shot at early Bunnymen and misses by miles; ‘Becomings‘ starts off promisingly with a Waitsian junkyard shuffle but, like most of the songs here, loses any appeal it might’ve had thanks to Tim Cohen’s rather naff lyrics and overly mannered vocal stylings.
Throughout, singer and band come across like they don’t really believe in what they’re doing. Frankly, neither do I.