Chicagoland’s the Safes have been delivering hook-laden anthems since 2003 with brothers Frankie and Patrick O’ Malley’s uncanny pop and pub sensibilities leading the charge. The latest offering, Tasty Waves, treats listeners to 10 tracks channeling Big Star, Guided By Voices and Rockpile. “Mediocre Jokers” and “Nobody Cares Anymore” recall the amphetamine-addled Beatles in their Hamburg days, but filtered through the future tense of New Wave, LSD and the oncoming train of postmodern irony.
Is rock ‘n’ roll noble or savage? Listening to “Mind of Its Own”, in tune with the genre’s early brash audacity and “I Wish I Could Help You”, a collision of the primitive and the sophisticated, the answers don’t come easy. One soon suspects the O’Malleys wouldn’t have it any other way.
The run-and-gun/give-and-go attitude of the Safes’ live shows prevails. The group, after all, converts newcomers with equal measures gentle persuasion and force.
According to Patrick O’ Malley, it was Frankie’s unstoppable creativity that urged the new record into being. “We had another full album recorded, mixed, done. We had art work, videos, everything,” he recalls. “But Frankie, who literally has hundreds of songs demoed at all times, had nine more. I kept going back and listening to these nine in particular. There was something about them. They were funny, weird, and sounded like an album to me.” The trouble was, the Safes carried a rule that dictated any full-length had to be comprised of 10, not nine, songs. “Frankie had the lyrics to ‘Streets and Sanitation’ but nothing else,” Patrick O’ Malley recalls. “So I took the lyrics and finished the song. That capped off an unintentional album, and we went back to the studio to make the real thing.”
His brother’s seemingly unfiltered creativity, he adds, is one of the group’s greatest attributes. “When Frankie makes his demos he doesn’t have time for things like tuning, click tracks, good takes,” he says. “But I can always hear the potential in his demos and knew these nine songs were special.”
Frankie is particularly appreciative of his sibling’s editorial abilities. I’m really lucky to have Patrick helping me make these records,” he notes. “Without him, they’d end up sounding like your favorite songs playing in between two AM radio stations where you just can’t get dialed in no matter what you do.”
Rounded out by drummer Dex Fontaine and bassist Curt Schmelz, the Safes release Tasty Waves tomorrow, 8 September. The album may be ordered here and streamed below.