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  One Kiss Ends It All  
  Saturday Looks Good to Me  
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Five years after his most recent release under the Saturday Looks Good to Me moniker (and 9 years after the rather epic Every Night), Michigander Fred Thomas revisits his poppy reverby roots with One Kiss Ends It All. Like most things Saturday Looks Good to Me, this new release drips with lush melodies, echoed effects, and a dreamy ambience. The tunes are generally easy to hear despite occasionally glitch sounds. Likewise, this song cycle benefits from the primarily female vocalizing, which recalls the SLGTM line up of All Your Summer Songs. Nevertheless, if this is your first experience of the band, you'll find that some of the songs veer dangerously close to twee.

But perhaps it's best to look at the tracks individually to explain how Thomas and company manage this tightrope walk. The album begins with One Kiss, where overly-effected organ takes the centerstage while Thomas and one of four female collaborators call and respond to one another in not-quite harmony before a "tape glitch" brings things to a sudden halt. This leads directly into Invisible Friend, which has a quick pace and some frantic instrumentation. Then the female voice comes in and serves up a perfect pop tune with a truly harmonized chorus that is reminiscent of the 70s-esque stylings of Milo Greene. Things them flow into the swirling haziness of Empty Beach, which is filled with lovely arpeggios that act as a contrast to the fey female vocals. It's a precious performance that seems close to twee, but is saved by the pretty melody. Likewise, Negative Space is a tune which I desperately want to like because of its tonal similarities to Until the World Stops Spinning from Every Night and its use of former SLGTM vocalist Betty Barnes. But, unfortunately, Thomas gives into his slightly self-indulgent manner by inserting a seriously ambient, glitch sequence of "negative space" at about the minute and a half mark, which then goes into a loud bridge that attempts to soar, but feels out of place within the track itself. It's a nice attempt that ultimately fails, which is something of a shame.

However, Saturday Looks Good to Me comes back strongly with New City, which has a boppy busky feeling that eventually fills out with a horn section underneath the repeated chorus of "The city's falling apart; it's time to build a new city." Fun stuff which brings to mind the cheery pep of Underwater Heartbeat from 2003's All Your Summer Songs. The next track, The Ever-present New Times Condition begins with a echoey feedback loop (like something you'd hear from A Classic Education) before moving into a swaying hazy guitar riff with a quick drumbeat. Yet another female vocalist comes in singing a melody that's mimicked by the bassline, while Thomas himself chimes in with a blurry vocal bit. This is another pretty song, where the different layers hold together better than they do in some of the early tracks. From there, things pick up with Break in, which has a very Motowny bass line, girl group harmonies, and more horn section fun. If you're familiar with the Saturday Looks Good to Me catalog, think Girl of Mine and you're in the right place.

Things stay in the organ heavy land with Polar Bear, which is instrumentally the most sparse and yet most swinging tune on the record. With more horns, handclaps, and a prominent bassline, the Northern soul sound which has always influenced Thomas's work become even more evident. Then it's back to reverb-central with Are You Kissing Anyone?, a short little interlude where the echo drips from the rafters. This leads directly into Johnny, the only tune on the record where Thomas takes the dominant vocal part, even if he sounds like he's down the hall in a box singing with a mouth full of gauze. Nevertheless, the changing time signatures and tones within little over two minutes makes this more effective than the opener One Kiss.

The penultimate Sunglasses has a melody and energy that immediately recalls Saturday Looks Good to Me's best song, Dialtone. With vocalist Carol Catherine taking the lead, this tune bops along appealingly, although the end does feel a bit Schoolhouse Rock to me. Finally, the album ends with Space Children, which feels very folk-country to me (maybe the years Thomas spent in Portland effected him more than I think?). Here the voices and their near-harmony seem a bit out of place and the jangle feels more like 60s California than modern indie. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who would love this tune. But honestly, I think Sunglasses would end things on a better note altogether.

I have to admit that I sat on this review for 3 months. That's because on first listen, I immediately went, "Oh my gosh! How very twee! Ick!" But thenÖI remembered that I gave a rather negative review to All Your Summer Songs based on my first impression. And, after listening to that record for a while, I realized I had not done it justice. One Kiss Ends It All has a similar effect. After listening to the record again, and waiting a few months, I realized how very strong and accessible it is, despite the occasional missteps. In the words of our British reviewers, this album is a grower, and Iím glad I gave it a chance to work its magic on me.

Related Links:

Also on EvilSponge:
      Album: All Your Summer Songs
      Album: Live 2003
      7": Liquor
      EP: EP
      Concert: Thu.27.May.04
      Album: Every Night
      Festival Performance: South by SouthWest 2005 - Day 3
      7": No Reaction b/w No Reception
      Festival Appearance: SxSW07 on Wed.14.Mar.07
      Festival Appearance: SxSW07 on Fri.16.Mar.07


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