It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
The Sights open their third full-length with a sweltering, Hammond organ-waterlogged cover of Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey’s gospel tune “I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song”. But The Sights is not a gospel record.
The Sights close their third full-length with a spot-on run through the Faces’ “Stay with Me”, which is apt, for they often sound like a classic British rock band. But they (Eddie Baranek on guitar and vocals, Bobby Emmett on organ and bass, and Mike Trombley on drums) come from Detroit. Thus, the Sights are not British.
Like their British contemporaries Supergrass, the Sights suck in the flavors of the ‘60s and ‘70s (garage, psychedelia, glam, pub rock) and spit out the saturated sound. Along the way, The Sights touches on the Faces, the Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Animals, and the Who, but it is not a record of diluted mimicry. (See Jet’s Get Born for a dose of that.)
“Do you see what I see?” the band brazenly offers over a stranglehold Cream-esque riff in “Circus”, splintering off into wah-wah whippings and Hammond balloons. Yes, I do; I see signs in the sound waves. I am not currently on drugs.
The Sights’ greatest asset is their fusion of Hammond-swirling psychedelia and muscled, steely rawk, exhibited best in “Suited Fine” (with its gorgeous backdrop of harmonies) and pummeling “Backseat”. They live the best of both worlds, wielding bluesy riffs like dangerous weapons while suggesting that the punch has been spiked. Or, they attack with pregnant chords after consuming spiked punch. It’s like this: the guitars carve out canals and the organs—gregariously high in the mix, salty lipped and bug-eyed—flood the gaps.
“Just Got Robbed” is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rock, alternating between a hiccupped Detroit gutter strut and early Beatles mop-top-tussling melody. The leap to the chorus is initially jarring, like the band’s used the wrong key to open a specific door. Since the individual sections of the song are so infectious, you allow for any collective discrepancies of construction. The song shouldn’t work, but as you clearly see, it does. Feeling beats logic. Logic walks home alone with a black eye.
The Sights’ previous two records—1999’s Are You Green? and 2002’s Got What We Want—were routinely overlooked upon their releases; don’t let that happen a third time with The Sights. It’s a hell of a rock record, and deserves an appreciative audience. The Sights aren’t reinventing the wheel here; they’re an example of an accomplished band making sturdy, reliable rock ‘n’ roll—something that’s easily taken for granted when “reinvention” is so myopically sought out.
Not to instigate a Detroit street war of bragging rights or anything, but the octave guitar assault of “Frozen Nose” beats the White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid” by about one and a half months.
The Sights does not consist entirely of rash, reactive rock. “Waiting on a Friend” is a boozy saloon waddle, caustically tossing a friendship out the window (“I don’t care about what happens to you”); “Baby’s Knocking Me Down” is a lucid, mid-tempo offering from keyboardist Emmett; and while “Good Way to Die” proceeds with the hulky entrancement of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, it recalls the philosophical and spiritual finality of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Detroit is not cast in monotone.
What the Sights (and The Sights) are: only rock ‘n’ roll. Blissfully reckless, high voltage, denim blue, sweat-stinging rock ‘n’ roll. But damn, do I like it.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.