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Recording:
  All Your Summer Songs  
 
Artist:
  Saturday Looks Good To Me  
 
Label:
  Polyvinyl  
 
Release Date:
  2003  
 
Reviewed by:
  Tracers  
         
 
Rating:
   
         
 
Review:
 

I wasnít familiar with Michigan band Saturday Looks Good to Me Before they came to play a show in Atlanta. In fact, I hadnít really planned to go to that concert; however a friend of mine from Ann Arbor told me that I had to go see this band, and that he was pretty sure Iíd like them.

And, to give my friend credit, I did like them at that show. Admittedly, nothing they performed rocked my world or left me speechless, but they were a very solid enjoyable fractured pseudo-haunted 60s prom band. And I think that on a different evening, with different expectations, I could really have enjoyed them more. So, since I liked the band, and they were so highly recommended, I bought their album.

Therefore, I was absolutely stunned and flabbergasted when I put in All Your Summer Songs and hit play. I had to go look at the CD case, because I wasnít sure that this was even the same band I had seen in concert. Instead of fractured rockabilly driven by hard drums and blistering guitar, this was pure 60s-esque summer pop, without the amazing guitarwork of their show and also predominately sung by guest vocalists (both male and female). Like a Michigan version of The Magnetic Fields, Saturday Looks Good to Me took the songs Iíd liked in concert and rearranged and resung them in a manner that was unrecognizable. Still stunned and a little disappointed, I pulled the CD out of the player and pushed it to the side, figuring maybe I could get some other Minion who might get more out of the album to review it.

Flash forward a couple of weeks. Iíd gone to visit friends, and found myself sitting around an old pool, drinking beer, and listening to music in the sun. One of the people with me asked if Iíd brought anything to listen to. I thought about what was sitting out if the car, and tried to figure out what would make sense in the context. And then I suddenly thought of my semi-abandoned copy of All Your Summer Songs and thought, ďThat may work.Ē

So we popped it into the sound system, and I kicked back on the lawn chair and had another beer. By this time the memory of that concert and my original disappointment had faded, and now I could appreciate the music. It wasnít stunning overall, but the retro-Motown meets garage routine worked for me now, at least on some levels. However, I still found much that bothered me about the album. My main complaint is that the various female guest vocalists all have a fey, baby-ish quality to their singing which in effect gives the songs an airiness that belies any emotional intensity within the music. For example, one of the better songs on the album, Ultimate Stars, begins with a happy retro organ/bassline straight out of the Barry Gordy catalogue. This fluffiness continue as the vocals begin and the songs bounces along like a missing Supremes single. In and of itself, itís not bad (and it is rather catchy), until you realize that the lyrics behind the song are essentially a lament, and that the vocalistís style doesnít convey the potential emotion that lies within. Likewise, Meet Me By the Water is another exceeding catchy song that begins with an echo that wouldnít have been out of place on The Rock*a*Teensí self-titled 1996 release. But once the vocals begin, any hope of the song building or providing release are hopeless lost. In fact the most evocative part of that song is the echoed guitar work which leads into a part of the song where the horn section carries the melody. And these issues carry over to the guest male vocals as well, although itís not as noticeable on the female-lead songs. Overall, this issue colors my entire perception of the album , as I tend to like music that is raw around the edges and seems to proceed from some genuine emotion as opposed to this more sterile pop sound.

In fact, the best song on the album is the only one (I believe) that songwriter Fred Thomas sings himself. Like much of the rest of the album, The Sun Doesnít Want to Shine begins with a swell of music. However, instead of moving into the airy territory already covered on the rest of the album, this song focuses on the slightly askew vocals of Thomas, who in one 3 minute section manages to add more charm and invoke more emotion than the rest of the album combined. Likewise, this song is the one which features a more stripped down arrangement with more overall echo and less organ so that you actually can feel the strength of the songwriting in a way you canít on the rest of the album. In short, itís the one moment on All Your Summer Songs where I can see the potential of the band as a whole, and the skills of Fred Thomas in particular.

In the end, although you may doubt it based on the above, All Your Summer Songs is a fairly decent album. It isnít absolutely brilliant or original, but it will definitely work for pleasant music to listen to by a pool. Nevertheless I remain disappointed that on the album, Saturday looks Good to Me chose not to highlight the vocals of main songwriter Fred Thomas and instead focused on creating a vaguely twee re-creation of early 60s bubble gum pop.

 
         
 
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