The Fresh & Onlys Play It Strange

The Fresh & Onlys Play It Strange
It's hard to keep up with San Francisco, CA's the Fresh & Only's. Between the flurry of limited edition seven-inch singles, a recent EP on Captured Tracks, two more full-lengths and tours with King Khan and Clinic, it's a wonder anyone in this band can find the time to take a leak. Yet for anyone looking to finally get into the Fresh & Onlys, after being a little intimidated by knowing where to start, Play It Strange (their debut on legendary label In the Red) is the comprehensive listen you've been after. All the tireless work has benefited the band; their jangly hooks are as focused as ever, their melodies don't so much as pop up as engulf and the sprawl of tracks like "Tropical Island Suite" bring them out of that "garage rock" umbrella they've been living under for far too long. The sonic wings of the band spread further than ever, especially on the soulful march of album closer "I'm A Thief"; these guys can no longer be lumped in with their Nuggets-loving peers. There is a wild, uninhibited growth on Play It Strange that finds the band broadening their horizons while keeping their aim focused and benevolent. The second half of the record, with straight up bangers "Plague of Frogs" and "Be My Hooker," will appease garage purists, but the depth that they attain on the first half, including the bluesy sway of "Summer of Love" and the spooky groove of "Waterfall," documents a band on a creative upswing. Get on board, if you can keep up. (In The Red)