Long Slow Dance is, for the most part, a departure from the rough and the grit of Play It Strange for something I can only describe as a bit more contemporary. I know, right!? It sounds strange to say that, given The Fresh & Onlys‘ occasional penchant for noisy, rambunctious (albeit not overly so) psychedelic-tinged garage rock. So hear me out.
First, there’s more production.
At least on Long Slow Dance, The Fresh & Onlys’ days of raw garage rock/pop seems to be somewhat over. Listen to Play It Strange and Grey-Eyed Girls and you’ll hear true garage rock; here, that garage element is played down significantly.
Second, there’s more air; more space between things.
“Dream Girls” is a prime example; it’s softer, has fewer loud components. Hell, there are even harmony vocals and what sounds like the inclusion of a xylophone. It’s startling at first.
Then, third, more air and more production leads to a heightened sense of detail.
And fourth is the content of the songs themselves.
Long Slow Dance is a nod to the romantic songwriting not all too common these days. There’s emotion, but it’s not emo; there’s love and heartbreak but it’s not sappy; there’s introspection and contemplation, but it’s not singer/songwriter-y.
The result is that these songs feature more subtlety. They’re not as in-your-face as “Waterfall” off Play It Strange or “Invisible Forces” off Grey-Eyed Girls. Long Slow Dance instead is a change of pace, a focus inward on song-craft replacing the simplistic guttural need to rock.
Yes, it’s a bit shocking at first, but dig in and you’ll hear there’s significant depth within Long Slow Dance that emphasizes The Fresh & Onlys’ ability to truly create intricate and even intimate songs, not just produce super catchy garage-tinged psych-rock.
Whereas artists like Band Of Horses have given way to mass production, the flattening of greatness, The Fresh & Onlys do not succumb to the same fate, do not follow the tragedy of solely being good background music.
This is blatant on the stunning album climax, “Foolish Person”
This album certainly stands out in The Fresh & Onlys’ ever-growing repertoire of work. And for me, I have a hard time deciding which I prefer: the original feral side of this band, or this newly trimmed and groomed version. After all, both are superb.
You can find Long Slow Dance on Mexican Summer.