One Kiss Ends It All
Polyvinyl Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
Oh what dreamy visions. An echo chamber of ecstasy divided into 12 parts. That is the newest album by the Ann Arbor-based band, Saturday Looks Good To Me, One Kiss Ends It All. It can best be described as a surreal counter-pop, a seemingly innocent strand of happy-go-lucky songs about life, love and the intricacies of each. This, their seventh album is a comeback or a return from a five-year hiatus. On One Kiss, Saturday Looks Good To Me (SLGTM) is poised to reclaim their beloved public. As everyone knows, though, the “public” can be fickle and impatient. Of course, they weren’t all idle during those five years: there were side projects and a new label that (Life Like) that came out of it. The new album is a velvet-crush of blissful, green-grass, nuanced pop delights. “Invisible Friend” is, on the surface, a simple study in pop-love tunes, but on deeper inspection, one finds a layered, textured and swirling icing on the cake of Brian Wilson’s birthday party. Further on down the line are songs including a deeper, reflection in “Empty Beach” that includes a Hammond Organ chord-reverb ending. “Negative Space” is a Julee Cruise-like ethereal ballad. “The Everpresent New Times Condition” is a careening drive up the coast with a barenaked guitar doodling throughout. The album ends with the six plus minute “Space Children” which is a lovely dreamscape, sounding not unlike Stereolab at points, that has the perfect ending to both the song as well as the whole album.
The band was started and led by singer-songwriter-producer and multi-instrumentalist Fred Thomas. Originally conceived as a basement-studio project, recording Fred’s tunes on a variety of CD-Rs and eventually laying their music down on wax: soon a number of limited edition 7” records were recorded.
During the first phase of the bands existence, there was little cohesion among the band as it constantly mutated, the lineup would change a lot. The exceptions to this were the constancy of drummer Ryan Howard, keyboardist Scott Sellwood and bassist Scott deRoche. After a while of being a “studio” band – they recorded a number of DIY CD-Rs and some 7 inchers, they were attracting a fair amount of attention. So, finally they started doing some tour dates and next thing you know they amassed a considerable cult following, mostly through word-of-mouth (“dude, you gotta check this great disc my brother’s got in his collection…”). Once that “word-of-mouth” reached enough ears, SLGTM were heard by indie labels who wanted SLGTM to make music for them. So, after a few DIY CDs and whatnot, the band released All Your Summer Songs, their 2003 debut for Chicago’s Polyvinyl Records. All Your Summer Songs made such a big splash the year it came out that it made Pitchfork’s “Top 50 Releases of 2003” list. Their follow-up, Every Night saw SLGTM bring on board a second singer, Betty Marie Barnes. Betty and Fred, thereafter, were co-lead singers. In 2007, however, Barnes “semi-left” the band, handing back the full vocal duties to Fred, which he did on 2007’s K Records release, Fill Up the Room. This one was deemed “more adventurous”, musically and lyrically than their previous two efforts (Sound on Sound and Every Night); example: the 6 minute 48 second pop suite: “When I Lose My Eyes”.
Unfortunately for the avid fans, SLGTM decided to put things on hold for what turned out to be a five year hiatus. It was during this period that Fred Thomas started his own label, Life Like as well as doing a project with drummer Ryan Howard called City Center which recorded such fantastic discs as Redeemer and Zen Kids, both for the K-Records label, which, on the label’s website, described City Center thus: “ [an] ever-expanding landscape of warmly washed-out psychedelia, where splintered samples and chillingly desolate drones somehow emerge in the form of soft summery pop songs. ever-expanding landscape of warmly washed-out psychedelia, where splintered samples and chillingly desolate drones somehow emerge in the form of soft summery pop songs.” I found it to be an aptly written description, so vivid, it would make me want to go out and buy a CD just on what I read alone.
Fast forward years ahead: fortunately, in 2012, SLGTM, revamped with stalwarts Scott deRoche on bass and drummer Ryan Howard, two new singers, Carol Gray and Amber Fellows, went back to Polyvinyl Records and recorded a seven inch called Sunglasses. It was a two-song 7” with the “B-side” “Give Me Your Hands”. It was a musical “dipping the toe in the water” to which the rest of their “body” reacted favorably and they then recorded One Kiss Ends it All, which comes out next week. Fred and Carol and Amber rotate vocal duties, blissfully belting out the perfect pop on this comeback, of sorts. It’s a good one and I think that, to die-hard fans, One Kiss will certainly look (and sound) good to them! -KM