I feel kind of bad. Beyond the cheery hit, all this has is semi-filler that’s energetic and tight enough to escape ignominy but not compelling enough to bypass my apparent apathy towards folkies with electric current. If you’re more in-tune with jug bands and the blues than I am, this should be right up your alley.
Is this what selling out looks like? Because if doing so leads to sunflower melodies as blissful as the “Have to” tracks’, it’s the best decision Sebastian could make. Their warm harmonies and sparkling arrangements are nearly Brian Wilson-quality, and even minor tracks like “Warm Baby” hum on summer airs.
Then there are the more “authentic” songs: wheezy instrumentals and slight jug-band romps that echo the debut’s total lack of (especially vocal) personality.
So can we all agree that pop aspirations sometimes do wonders for an artist?
Two things they never excelled at—jug band and instrumentals—and a soundtrack dominated by them. The latter sees some progress on murkier tracks like “Unconscious Minuet”, but otherwise the focus is slack and the details indifferent.
Even with the usual jug duds, this opens up quite a few avenues for further exploration. Veering from Tiger Lily-sourced haze to disorienting fuzz-and-slide smears, Sebastian puts in enough melodic effort to ensure the eclecticism succeeds (given adequate distance from his roots). Besides obvious gem “Summer in the City”, it’s the country turns that give promise for the future; considering my past struggles, it’s exciting to report that “Nashville Cats”‘ trim bob makes my ears perk up and listen to a celebration of a genre otherwise alien.
Any residual twang is filtered through typical film-score swoons; and for that I’m grateful, as it lets Sebastian’s melodicism shine through beautifully (“Amy’s Theme”). It’s a shame about the brevity and repetition, though. Too many of the instrumental snippets fade away before they can bloom into the delicate clouds they’d become—or just rehash past themes with too little variation.
Is it too simple to pin this as their best ever by sheer virtue of its poppiness? Sebastian’s clearly feeling some pressure to branch out, and with few exceptions, he does so admirably, jettisoning John the jug goof in favor of Mr. Melody. Even “Money”—banjo and all—wins me over thanks to the sly, honeyed vocals.
Other features of note include “Younger Generation”, a lovely, hushed reflection on fatherhood that ends all too abruptly, and “Boredom”, a late-night country musing that displays all the feathery ease of a Spoonful classic. Honestly, aside from the flat “Priscilla Millionaira”, there’s not a bum track here.
An unexpected treat.
Even though the melodies are as inert as you’d expect from a Sebastian-less Spoonful, there’s enough off-kilter earnestness and groove to make a fun little curio. Keep an ear out in particular for a marchable reworking of a Turtles gem and an obvious-yet-effective sound collage that hits all the right notes of anti-war stridency.