[14 December 2008]
If there’s one rule that governs punky power pop, it’s this: don’t think too much. Just bang out some power chords, toss in a catchy chorus, put it all on tape, and call it day. It worked for Cheap Trick in 1977 and it’s held up ever since. Still, in this day and age of ProTools and Chinese Democracy the temptation to overtinker and reinvent the wheel is as strong as ever. Thank goodness, then, for Chicago’s the Safes, who, with The Sight of All Light show what can be accomplished when nothing matters except rocking out.
Sight of All Light—all five tracks and 11 minutes of it—takes what the band (brothers Frankie, Michael and Patrick O’Malley) built on their sorta-breakthrough, 2006’s Well Well Well and, simply put, scuzzes it all up. Fuzz replaces its predecessor’s jangle, and, mercifully, it’s done without losing any hooks. The Safes have clearly boned up on the Class of ‘77, with obvious nods to Cheap Trick, the Clash (dig the ringing guitars on “Greed”) and every other British band that released an album that year (“Troublemaker”). There’s a refreshing lack of pretension here, though that may be because there isn’t enough time to put on airs. Here’s what you do: Spin Sight of All Light twice, follow it up with a few other bands who share the same ethos—Gentleman Jesse and His Men, Cheap Time—grab a beer, and take heart that 2008 isn’t so far removed from 1977 after all.