It’s appropriate that Detroit garage-rockers The Sights titled their fourth album Most of What Follows Is True, which is also the opening disclaimer for the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). The connection between The Sights and the film starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman may not seem real, but remains apt. The film, and The Sights’ latest outing, are both revisionist and, pardon the pun, clear-sighted in approach. Butch Cassidy reworked the western genre’s rules without breaking the mold. The Sights have done the same with garage rock.
This 38-minute, 12-track release is as revved up – in places – as previous Sights’ records. But the quartet, led by vocalist/guitarist Eddie Baranek, has prominently added 1960s pop references, 1970s hard rock influences, and bits of country and folk. In essence, The Sights have come up with an honestly American collection of songs transcending the sometimes limited garage rock genre.
Sporting a tradition of heavy-duty music, from Mitch Ryder to Bob Seger as well as Iggy & The Stooges and Grand Funk Railroad, Michigan’s working-class, sweaty ethic permeates the two opening cuts on Most of What Follows Is True. The incriminating kiss-off “How Do You Sleep?” immediately flexes with high-powered, riffing guitar, pummeling percussion, and snippets of Hammond B-3 organ. That’s followed by another punchy, crunchy rocker, “Hello to Everybody,” an unpretentious paean to having fun with a new girlfriend. The closing piece, “(Nose to the) Grindstone,” also has a touch of boogie-rock, contributed by Baranek’s thick guitar, but the tune’s leavened by vocal harmonies and Small Faces-esque breaks.
The Sights almost ceased existing a few years ago. Baranek was no longer inspired to write or keep the band he created functioning. In 2009, he put together a different line-up, with Dave Lawson (banjo, bass, vocals and acoustic guitar), Gordon Smith (piano, organ, guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), and the latest in a long line of drummers, Jim “Skip” Denomme. Smith and Lawson are important collaborators. Their input provides essential supplements for the group’s dynamic. Lawson radiates a roots slant with the two songs he penned. “I Left My Muse” has a charmingly off-kilter, pop-roots demeanor reminiscent of The Minus 5, with vocals akin to Scott McCaughey and lyrics comparable to his shaggy-dog narratives. “Tick Tock Lies” has a similarly jaunty deportment highlighted by jangly guitars, panned across left and right channels, along with equally amiable organ and arrangement suggesting Badfinger or Shoes. Gordon Smith’s sole contribution, “Take & Take,” has a stimulating power-pop resonance, updating the melodically revealing songwriting parlayed by late 1970s UK ensembles such as The Records or Bram Tchaikovsky.
Baranek’s tunes, which often have a newly-discovered-love tone, share Lawson’s and Smith’s light-hearted attitude. The carefree pop nugget “Maria” has a brisk quality underscored by Lawson’s banjo and Baranek’s self-mocking account of attempting to take his girlfriend out on a date. “I’m already balding, there’s nothing I can do,” Baranek lets her know. “I’m only five-foot-four, but I ain’t no bore.” Post-adolescent ardor also bubbles through the cheerful, power pop track “Honey.” However, Baranek’s constantly upbeat remarks about his new-found relationship can wear thin over the record’s duration.
Producer Jim Diamond, who thankfully returns for behind-the-boards duty, is a perfect sonic partner. He adjusts the stereo balance to benefit the banjo and acoustic guitar’s softer characteristics while facilitating a heavier foundation when needed to boost the bottom end on louder, faster cuts. Throughout Most of What Follows Is True, The Sights demonstrate a restless adaptability and, at times, unpredictability. But nearly always, the ensemble succeed due to genuine, straightforward material mixing progress with revivalism.Visit: The Sights | Alive Naturalsound
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