Outrageous Cherry vocalist and songwriter Matthew Smith should be grateful to New Pornographers frontman AC Newman for rocking out OC’s “If You Want Me” every night on his solo tour last year. In fact, I’ll thank him too. Without Newman, a good band might have continued to exist under my radar, which they have for far too long (almost 12 years).
It’s a good time to be listening to these unabashed progenies of ‘60s garage pop. It’s in the air—from the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic to the much deserved notoriety of similarly influenced bands like the Shins and the aforementioned Newman. And even your buddy who dismisses newer artists of this ilk for their 21st century production values would appreciate Outrageous Cherry’s dedication to keeping the fidelity low and the vibes high. If Outrageous Cherry were to appear on a Nuggets comp, it’s doubtful that anyone would bat an eyelash.
That being said, it’s always a good idea to approach so-called retro artists with a degree of caution. Right off the bat, you can expect not to hear anything too stylistically original, which is OK, as long as it still manages to sound fresh. For instance, Smith’s occasional meanderings into lyrical psychedelia come off a little silly: “The earth is just a particle of dust, whirling in the cusp of the emptiness of space / Don’t worry, the inside consciousness will see to your success”. Pop culture has been parodying this sort of imagery for years now, so it’s difficult to take seriously, even when the intentions are sincere. Thankfully, Smith keeps the weirdness at bay for the most part and focuses on the never tiring subject of love, wrapping his sentiments in the sublimely groovy and sometimes gorgeous musical manifestation of a ‘60s summer.
This EP kicks off with the title track, one of two songs here that will appear on Outrageous Cherry’s February full-length Our Love Will Change the World. “Why Don’t We Talk About Something Else” is a peppy confection of multiple harmonies and Beach Boys wall-of-sound. Smith understands that the best songs are not often easy for the ears to catch the first time around; the vocal melodies constantly shift in a way to keep the listeners on their toes.
EP closer “Detroit Blackout”, the other song that will appear on the full-length, is the weakest of the five tracks, mostly because it wallows in repetitive instrumental weirdness, indecipherable vocals, and unmemorable guitar solos. Still, it’s similar to the title track in tone. These are daytime feel-good numbers, the musical equivalent of walking on the beach blissfully with a significant other.
The three non-album tracks in the middle, on the other hand, more closely capture how bittersweet a beautiful sunset can be when you have to watch it alone . . . in Detroit. “My Suspicious Midwest” does little to dispel the images of blue collar factory steel and Stooges angst that non-residents associate with the city, but it allows us to walk briefly in the shoes of a lonely local beatnik who can’t escape. “Don’t Worry” shuffles along merrily enough, but the lyrics reveal the darker story of a man trying to calm down his neurotic girlfriend by suggesting that their actions are inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe—or something like that. “Eternity Changed Her Mind”, the mellowest track on the EP, is all about the confusion and frustration of being in love with an enigmatic woman, and the resulting denouement of hopeless acceptance is far from comforting.
It’s hard to recommend shelling out money for an EP that’s half-comprised of songs you’ll be able to get soon enough on a full-length. But if Outrageous Cherry’s press pack is any indication, you won’t find anything like the three unreleased tracks on the new record; this is why it’s worth checking out. When I put this in my stereo, more often than not, I’m going to skip past the happy pop single and listen to the tunes that feel a bit more emotionally substantial. It’s this aspect that will keep this genre (and any genre, really) sounding continually fresh.