On fourth LP Long Slow Dance, the Fresh And Onlys have gotten out of the garage. After establishing themselves in the San Francisco lo-fi scene with their self-titled debut in 2009, the prolific quartet’s continued much in the same reverb-heavy vein and done well with it. But now, they’ve decided to clean up their act, amplifying their sound quality as much as their charm.
Long Slow Dance opens with the dreamy “20 Days And 20 Nights,” and it’s immediately clear from this start that Fresh And Onlys fans are in for a crisper sound. The band’s previously established retro flavors are still here though, with melancholy lyrics set against bright music. “Something so heavy in my mind, I think I want to try to get it out/So I cry,” sings Tim Cohen.
While the production value is much higher than on the Fresh And Onlys’ previous releases, Long Slow Dance is still a record that sounds raw and physically present; it makes sense that the Fresh And Onlys still record on tape. There’s an unmistakable warmth to tracks like “Executioner’s Song” or the mournful “Dream Girls” that can’t be accomplished digitally. Cohen’s personable delivery helps, too, whether he’s brokenhearted (“Yes Or No?”) or knee-deep in a honeymoon phase (“Long Slow Dance”).
The title track sees the frontman at his most laid-back but also his most self-deprecating, as he describes a lover he doesn’t deserve. “You’ll be the purest of wine, and I’ll be the dirty cup/We’ll pour a little drink to the perfect romance,” he says.
The Fresh And Onlys pick up the pace on tracks like “Fire Alarm” and “Euphoria,” the latter of which recalls their previous recordings the most. While not all of the rough edges have been smoothed out, there’s a sense of soaring ambition, and there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be. With the fuzz stripped down, Cohen and company’s songwriting skills are made clearer than ever.
Long Slow Dance showcases a band that’s not afraid to push its own boundaries. There’s energy and sophistication, textured by experience. This is where garage rock goes when it grows up.