In middle school, the fate of true love was decided by notes passed between classes: “Do you like me? Circle yes or no.” It was a simple act masking a jumble of nerves, desperation and the earliest signs of teenage hormones. Enter The Fresh & Onlys' Long Slow Dance, further proof that, even decades after middle school, some of us are still just looking for an answer to the note. Is it a yes, or is it a no?
From their days of fuzzed-out, to-the-point rollicks (see: “Dude’s Got a Tender Heart”), The Fresh & Onlys are getting better at articulating the hard-to-sort feelings involved, here crafting an album on which stylistic and lyrical oxymorons are revealed over multiple listens. Released in early September, we’re just now starting to see the understated weirdness of Long Slow Dance in full view, barely in time for the band’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on November 11.
Up there with his army jacket and lumberjack beard, frontman Tim Cohen’s appearance doesn't sync up to the controlled, dashing, Chris Isaak-in-a-tux-in-the-1950s vocal performance that serves as the album's base. Lines like, “You supply the innocent mind/And I'll bring the guilty heart” paint a self-image not at all aligned with suaveness or hair gel, though. He’s a mess, but he thinks you’re perfect. Do you like him, yes or no?
In further juxtaposition, the band’s association with San Francisco’s garage-rock mayors John Dwyer and Kelley Stoltz makes them key players in the bustling scene when, in reality, patching in minor-keyed organs and gothic influences from Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure extend their songs far past the genre's rigid guidelines. The album is anthemic but quietly so—a small but meaningful feat of romantic heroism.
The Fresh & Onlys play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday, November 8 with Quilt. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 day of.
Photo Courtesy David Black