Revivalist rock styles typically lasso winning formulas of the old and pull them into what’s contemporary and familiar for a new generation to blindly assume what it’s hearing is cutting edge. How to dissect the old and find something new? The Only Children is so close to being a blandly fashionable, rockabilly, 70's southern man rock revival album that it could have been Neil-safe: twangy and possibly successful enough for Ryan Adams to write a pissed off dis song in response. Instead, The Only Children revive the style by infusing indie rock into the mix while pulling gospel, string orchestration, pop sensibilities and flying harmonies into this southern comfort zone, swigging the mixed cocktail down smooth and warming the heart in the process. Josh Berwanger is probably tired of hearing The Anniversary comparisons put to his new project, but the ghosts of that broken band still loom in his new work. “Back to You” and “Hide Your Sorrow” initially come to mind, with their use of shared male and female vocals, violin work and earnest finger plucking.
Back to why this album is a piece of southern rock restoration. At times, The Only Children are a country Arcade Fire. Acoustic picking meets reverbed riffs; swishing tumbleweed drums collide with dancy percussion rhythms. “Dusty Magazines” and “Amen Amen” both utilize powerful guitar work that, coupled with group vocals, stir the arrangements into a similarly inspiring, chant-filled frenzy. Keeper of Youth works because Berwanger and company are able to apply their indie pop pasts to their present country rock state of mind without allowing either spouse to dominate the matrimony.