San Franciscan garage rock quartet The Fresh & Onlys find themselves part of the intriguing current Californian garage rock scene, which also includes acts like Ty Segall, White Fence and Thee Oh Sees. With an impressive back catalogue, as well as numerous solo projects by frontman Tim Cohen and guitarist Wymond Miles, the expectations ahead of ‘House of Spirits’ are naturally high, despite last year’s somewhat lacklustre ‘Soothsayer’ EP.
From the lo-fi beginnings of their self-titled 2008 debut LP, The Fresh & Onlys have always seemed to be moving forward, changing between albums, usually for the better, but always with a keen eye towards the garage rock and psych pop of the Sixties. ‘House of Spirits’ is certainly a change of pace, incorporating Eighties inspired drum machines and experimental approaches, on much of the album, with a few tracks like ‘Animal of One’ still keeping with their old ethos.
While they should be applauded for refusing to stand still, ‘House of Spirits’ is a long way from their best work. It’s a fragmented album - the band can’t seem to decide on which direction to go, with traditional garage pop and more experimental work standing shoulder to shoulder - and both musical brands are hindered by the murky production as well. ‘House of Spirits’ is a half-success, showing promise and ambition but lacking both the direction and the songs to be anything but a minor addition to the band’s catalogue.