Live in San Francisco
Castle Face Music, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
All I could say was “OMIGOD” when I started listening to this live recording of White Fence, playing a gig (or, possibly a composite of gigs, edited into one live collection from a series of shows around SF, but, I doubt it). I must say that I’ve not heard of White Fence before, but I feel cheated. These guys kick ass.
Since 2010 Tim Presley, who had previously been in Strange Boys and Darker My Love, set out to create something – and that something was White Fence. In 2010 Woodsist Records released their self-released debut album. White Fence has always basically been the work of Presley, with his songs, his musicianship, his direction, etc. This is a band that is so iconoclastic compared to today’s tired, cliched pop (yawn) and faux teen angst. Tim Presley has tapped into a vein that has a very inspired sound. The music is full of catchy musical phrasings and a psychedelic/garage-rock sound; the latter coming out of their raw, stripped down rock and roll chops. Not an electronic dance band or a crooning pop balladeer, Tim’s like a man out of time here – he’s either the messiah of a new rock and roll age or a sage, bringing back a great sound that’s been sorely missing in rock for some time.
In 2011, White Fence released their 2nd CD, entitled White Fence is Growing Faith. Tim hadn’t changed and the album had a lot of the same raw, intense spirit of the debut: a trippy, goofball-induced tuneful template. The same year, White Fence also released their first live recording – on cassette – Live in L.A. on Teenage Teardrops Music and they put out a single, “Harness” b/w “The Pool” for Afterlife Records. Do you see a pattern beginning to emerge here? Tim seems to be swinging from label to label. Anyway, Presley spent a lot of time in the studio after touring and such, since in 2012 White Fence came out with Family Perfume Vol. 1, in April, 2012 and Family Perfume, Vol. 2, in May, 2012, both released on Woodsist Records. They also did a collaboration with fellow West Coaster, Ty Segall. Hair came out in April of the same year on Drag City Records.
After all this, there was more to come – the next project was, at first, going to be a collection of unreleased White Fence tunes that hadn’t seen the light of day, but Tim changed his mind partway through putting it together and decided to make an album full of newly written and recorded songs, which was what Cyclops Reap became.
Although on the studio albums, Presley was a kind of one-man band, he was able to gather some collaborators and so, when they took to the stage, they were electrifying. Unless you count the cassette-tape-only version of their Live in L.A., their first live album that was, at least, available on CD, was released in 2013, after a scorching tour, with a stop or two in the Bay Area. They recorded a show they did in San Francisco. I don’t know which venue they played at – but, having lived there for about five years, I’ve been to a lot of shows there – I’ve seen Sebadoh twice – once at Bimbo’s 365 Club and once at the fabulous Great American Music Hall, I’ve seen Meat Beat Manifesto three times – once at the Fillmore, once at Maritime Hall and once at, uh, I forget, actually – the Warfield, maybe? Anyway, I saw Lou Reed at the Warfield, I saw Beck in Oakland, at the famous Paramount Theater and, I would never have gone except that a friend of mine had an extra ticket because the person who was going to go with him flaked out at the last minute, so I got talked into going to the Warfield (again) to see Marilyn Manson. I’m not a big fan at all, Manson is the epitome of derivative. Alice Cooper was doing that stuff back in the early 70s and doing it better. Anyway, we went and the tix we had were in the balcony, but anyone whose been to the Warfield knows that it’s not a huge place and what was great about our seats was that our seats were in the front row of the balcony, right in the center, so our view was spectacular: we could see the show perfectly from our vantage. The one thing I’ll say for the Manson show, in its favor was that its theatricality was cool and done well which made for an entertaining show. Oh Yeah – one other show I saw there – at the Warfield, was KMFDM, in December of 1997 – that was a really unforgettable show! Well, I digress – what I’m getting at is that I wish I knew where this White Fence CD was recorded in San Francisco, because, chances are, I’ve been there.
Anyway, this is, by far, whether live or studio, one of the best albums of 2013; another one to go on my “list” of the best of the year, a list which I will put together pretty soon now, given that it is December already! My god, the year went by fast! Anyway, just in time for year’s end, I will go through all my reviews from this past year and take the ones that I said were one of the year’s best and whittle ’em down to a “top 10” – actually, I doubt it will take much “whittling” since I don’t think there were more than about that many in the first place! But the thing to do will be to try and rank them in order of the #1 through the 10th best.
Like I said, this live one – Live in San Francisco to be exact, is my first exposure to White Fence. I was absolutely blown away by it and now I’m going to have to seek out the studio albums that Tim did. If I love this one, I’m sure I’ll dig the studio stuff too. If you have any music lovers in your family or as a boyfriend or girlfriend, this might make a great stocking stuffer – whether they know White Fence or not. This is the kind of thing that will definitely stick to you. If you had to describe their sound to a friend or someone, I’d tell them that White Fence reminds one of the stripped down, raw bite of The Stooges. As for more modern day resemblances? Hmm…Maybe Sebadoh, circa 1990 or Dinosaur Jr, circa 1988. But it is definitely worth your time and you will be thankful you listened. Enjoy!! -KM.