The fact that Evan Bailey‘s first self-titled record landed in my review pile was somewhat of a happy accident. The recent revival of this independent radio-rock sound with bands like Cheap Girls is one that I have welcomed with open arms. In a sentence, this record sounds like early Weezer if it was produced by Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry!. It already sounds about 15 years too late, but this is to be taken as a compliment because I view the 1990s as the real high point of indie rock. Bailey is obviously a competent songwriter, and his music is a breath of fresh air to my ears in a sea of pop-punk and metalcore bands and releases being championed in the review sections of the mainstream music press.
The record begins with the quick one-two punch of “She Was An American Girl” and “I’m Sick (Jackie Is A Punk).” These are both great, fuzzy rock songs and the harmonised vocal backings in both are well-placed and well-executed. Songs like “Exact Science” are, all at once, extremely original and the hooks still manage to sound memorable and familiar. Lyrically, Evan Bailey and his writing collaborator John Allen really are rather clever and provide choice words like: “it’s not exactly science you know, all the knobs and dials just for show.” To his credit, Bailey manages to retain a high level of energy throughout the first half of the record, then lapses into the more experimental (read: more hit-and-miss) second section.
After “Curse The Woman Tryin’ To Break My Heart” and “I Saw A Mouse Die On My Floor,” songs that would sound at home in any respectable record store run by true music nerds, the pseudo-reggae pop of “It’s Only Me” just seems wrongly placed, not just as a follow-up to the first side of the record, but in general on an album of this type. “He Touched Your Ass Through The Crack Of The Cushions On The Couch” has a heavier sound and is filled with angst; sadly, he just can’t really pull it off convincingly. “Beat” is initially promising, being on the other side of the emotional spectrum from the last song, but it fails to really go anywhere. These three songs really pull the overall quality of the record down.
Gratefully, the album starts to pick up with the distorted bass riff introduction of “Blue, Yellow, Red, Green.” The song is extremely poppy and is sung in a pleasing monotone reminiscent of Alex Kerns of the band Lemuria, and is backed with some fuzzy guitars and a number of great vocal harmonies sung in a surf-rock style. “…And When You Die” ends the record on a high note with an excellent build up to possibly the heaviest moment on the album, and features the refrain of, “all I understand is that you won’t be around.” It’s dark and triumphant all at once.
Throughout, if you are willing to excuse a brief 3-song lapse into misguided experimentalism, the first release by Evan Bailey is a great, upbeat and endearing listen. I just hope he ditches the reggae section of his music collection in preparation for his next album so I can rate it more highly than I have here.