It’s tough to review this as a brand new release, it’s so authentically steeped in that 60s production of Easybeats, Seeds, The Kinks and Standells that I’d swear it was 60 years old. A basement tape dragged from that first wave of britpop, a studio floor off cut that’s just been unearthed, ‘Wait And See’ could be all of those things.
And these sounds aren’t ripped off replications, they are lovingly reverb’d, perfected and panned. From the dull-just-slight rasp of a well rounded bass tone, to the echo-touched slush of the cymbals and hats, to the only-kissed-vaguely electrified twang of guitar stings that buzz in a warm yellowed haze, there’s a keen felt romance and nostalgia. It seems cult once-lost garage is living and well, and it’s still being produced as we speak.
‘Mystery Man’ was the single that caught me, not just the production but the structure and song that drags in every sad sunshine feel. A natural high croon meets with drifting backing vocals, a jangle that bounces too slow to be happy stays constant through rhythms and breaks. There’s even an occasional side swipe with surf, that matches precisely the US/UK rock and roll back and forth that sculpted the sounds of the era. These musicians are history’s students, and this song nails every lesson learnt.
The albums opening track ‘But I’m Scared’ is it’s equal, it moves lighter and warmer and even more fluid with feelers soft reaching in different directions. There’s a light touch of soul to the vox that surround and a loose hint of organs and retro-folk tangle. But these are just glances, inflections… we are still deep in genre and placing. And after we move past those intros and singles, we shift into Brit Kinks obscurity. ‘Old Original 45’ is a more jagged cut in a the well traced tradition of kitchen sink snapshots and miniature tales. Like a biography mapped in three minutes, we follow through underpowered singalong sections that move to a lazy rush beat. It might not be the best of this opening trilogy but it’s infectious, endearing and sweet.
And that opening trilogy is exactly that, as from here the cohesion is over. What comes next is an overstretched midsection swell of semi accompanied, semi acoustic tracks that please at first listen but wilt under pressure. And that’s a real shame. Because of any of these could be brought into life, to the levels that I had got used to.
‘Down By The River’ is primed to be pushed to a Standells style stomp with its gruff howl and raucous chord hacking. From its knock around intro to its Liverpool centred American drawl, it’s begging to breach fully formed. ‘Dear Old Sam’ sees some lovely bent notes get all twisted to form up what should be a solo, and it’s good to hear grit hit the croon. But with all the stopped starts and the after song laughter, I question their intent and inclusion. Because instead of a nuanced, lovingly produced album, we end up with a B-side collection. And as authentic as it sounds, like the lost tapes of some Pebbles and Nuggets worthy band that got lost in the dust of the decades, and no matter how good those bare bones are, it might be one homage too many.
So it’s lucky there’s rescue on standby. ‘Sunshine In the Morning’, still rough cut but fuller, is pure sugar spun 60s and sunshine. And if that doesn’t wipe out that mid section niggle, the last track ‘Wait And See’ brings back bliss. That smooth, cool production, that old TV crackle that buzzes and simmers on sharp suited monochrome suits, that beautiful thin Telstar synth sound… it’s a ? And The Mysterians classic. Just a shame that mid section keeps us waiting so long as it’s tempting to leave the show early.
‘Wait And See’ is out now to download and stream, or available to buy on digipack CD.
As always these highlights and other featured artists are right here on Rats On Run Radio.