Towards the end of summer 2003, I reviewed All
Your Summer Songs, the latest studio album by Detroit
band Saturday Looks Good to Me. I was very ambivalent about
that release, primarily because my only previous experience
with Saturday Looks Good to Me had been a concert played by
a stripped-down, three member version of the band, and I was
consequently outraged by the two primary differences between
their live and recorded personas. First off, as a live band
Saturday Looks Good to Me were a fractured blend of early garage
and rockabilly whereas on the album they came across as slightly
twee. More importantly, I found it upsetting that band leader
and songwriter Fred Thomas did not sing on most of the album,
while I had found his somewhat off-kilter, drawling vocals one
of the best parts of their live show.
Anyway, since that time, I've come to peace with the recordings
of Saturday Looks Good to Me. Even with the reservation listed
above, I must confess that the music is solid and the lyrics
are strong. So, I was indeed excited to receive this three song
EP, available exclusively via Polyvinyl Records mail order.
Guess what? This time around, Saturday Looks Good to Me sounds almost exactly like the live band I heard last summer. And that, my friends, is a very very good thing.
Opening track Diary begins with Fred Thomas singing over a bouncy, staccato
drum and guitar-oriented pop melody. However, once the band
reaches the chorus, the melody starts to swoop as Thomas croons
out, "Somehow, I don't think you'll be there if I fall. Write
it all down in your diary." Then the song's key modulates, and
the band repeats the same structure again before ending somewhat
abruptly. It doesn't sound like much, but the relative simplicity
comes as a great relief after the extensively produced tracks
on All Your Summer
The next song, When You Go Out Tonight, has a 1950s-esque
sound that wouldn't be out of place in a haunted basement. Although
the song is fleshed out by a horn section and organ, the primary
focus is the reverbed guitars and vocals, again by Thomas. Slightly
slower than one might expect and with some creepy lyrics to
boot, the song in and of itself isn't as outstanding as much
of Saturday Looks Good to Me's material is. However, as a recording,
it has nice pacing, and fits in nicely with musical tone of
the other two songs on the EP.
The final track is definitely the best. Sounding like a flashback
to the early Motown days, Girl of Mine is a "shimmy
around the room while dancing" kind of song. With a fast,
cymbal-heavy drumbeat, the song is again fronted by Thomas's
yelling vocals which echo the melody as laid out by the saxophone.
Furthermore, when the vocals end and the band goes into the
ending instrumental portion, it all sounds clean and crisp,
even down to the final horn squeal.
Then the EP is over, ending prior to the 7 minute mark. And
I'm left thinking, "Ah, that's more like it." Of course, if
you're one of the people who absolutely adored All
Your Summer Songs, I'm not sure what you'll think
of this EP. But, in my case, it was a relief to realize that
this band is capable of sounding like I remembered.