Music

The Explorers Club: Freedom Wind

The Explorers Club go in search of '60s pop sounds, and then call whatever they find their own.


The Explorers Club

Freedom Wind

Label: Dead Oceans
US Release Date: 2008-05-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

You only need to look at the cover art for Freedom Wind to know that the Explorers Club likes music from the '60s. The retro lettering, the smattering of pictures with the band frolicking on the beach, the fabricated circle of wear one finds on old, worn record sleeves. All of the ingredients are there, the same way they are in the music. The high-register vocal harmonies and distant, thundering drums call to mind most easily, and predominantly, the Beach Boys. Freedom Wind is an album that unapologetically, and free of irony, pays tribute to the pop sound of the '50s and '60s, and does so very convincingly.

Aside from the Beach Boys' sound, which runs throughout, there are other throwback influences the listener will notice. There's a spacey country-dabble in some songs that sounds a lot like the Byrds. The distorted vocals on "Honey, I Don't Know Why" hint at what a Brian Wilson/Captain Beefheart collaboration might sound like. To hear these influences and more so easily from track to track, it is easy to see where the band got their name.

They are surely exploring a particular time in music history. Unfortunately, like so many explorers, they simply take what they find and call it their own. Very rarely on Freedom Wind does the band sound like they are making their music. Where the Elephant 6 bands, back in the '90s, took their love of Brian Wilson and psychedelia and turned it into their own sound, here the Explorers Club merely echo a sound that already exists. They do so convincingly, and with plenty of hooks, but that just isn't enough to make this a distinct record.

The real problem could be in the lyrics on Freedom Wind. It is one thing to take and remake a sound from 40 years ago, it is another to co-opt that era's words too. The language of these songs, the measure and syntax of the lines, sounds dated. "She doesn't know how I feel deep inside / and every time I think of her I cry...", Jason Brewer sings on "Forever". The delivery of the words makes them sound even more antiquated than they look written out. The love the band sings about on this record is always "so true", and never simply (and more modernly) "true love". Songs like "Hold Me Tight" and "Last Kiss" sound as cliched as their titles suggest. Lead single "Do You Love Me?" is one of only a couple that rise above the album's throwback aesthetic. Where the rest of the album's production sounds forced, on this track the vocals are clearer and the use of saxophone in the background, and a lighter touch on the Beach Boys' percussion, make it the biggest success on the album. It sounds like a band from today using an old sound to craft an interesting and catchy pop song.

But that rarely happens on Freedom Wind. The Explorers Club spend so much time showing us how good they are at sounding like the Beach Boys or the Byrds, that they totally forget to show us what they sound like themselves. Which isn't to say that this album isn't fun; it definitely is. But weren't we already having this kind of fun, and more of it, listening to Pet Sounds and Fifth Dimension?

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.

Books

Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.

Music

'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.

Music

IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".

Music

Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.

Music

Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.

Music

Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.

Music

Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.