Thirty-plus years after the fact, I can sit around and listen to bands like Cheap Trick or The Raspberries, and be totally amazed at the duality of simple, catchy songwriting set to music that sounds like an amped-up version of The Beatles and The Byrds joining forces. In this day and age, it seems like a formula that many have tried, and have failed at. Some have attempted (New Pornographers, Apples in Stereo) to create songs that come close to reaching the peaks reached by names like Alex Chilton, Rick Nielsen, and Todd Rundgren, but the number who have failed (miserably in many cases) is pretty staggering.
While it isn’t the suburban sprawl of the Midwest that seemed to inspire many of 70s AM radios greatest hero’s, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park serves as the perfect backdrop for the sophomoric album of the Faraway Places, who seem to have a pretty good idea as to how to create the right soundtrack to a late-night burn cruise on your way to In-N-Out Burger, all while balancing it with strange sonic fuckery that seems pulled from the Can or Neu! Krautrocking playbook.
While noodling around with the nobs isn’t exactly what keeps the band from falling into (dangerous) Dandy Warhols territory, it does set them apart from the pack that would rather go straight ahead, and hope for the best. It’s a valiant stand they are taking, but the biggest deterrence in writing these sort of tunes is that the actual songwriting seems to lack that certain polish that makes some of the bands I mentioned earlier so classic. While I applaud the Faraway Places quest to make music that makes one think of Boston playing a loft in Germany, 1968, I can’t get past thinking that there is something missing from the songs on Out of the Rain, the Thunder & he Lightning.
It isn’t sincerity, because after several listens, I believe that this band totally loves playing this kind of music, and it isn’t originality, because they have a good run re-working with a sound that has been beaten into the ground. Still, the Faraway Places seem to be holding back a little on us; this album isn’t perhaps all they could have given us. It lacks that real biting song that sticks in your head for days after you listened to it, and that is a real shame, as this band seems to have an abundance of talent that I can only guess (or hope?) will bubble to the surface in the coming years.