For Darren Rademaker, life may be a beach, but it's not always sunny there.
At first blush, the Tyde seems like the perfect group to release a summertime album -- it's got the lazy beach vibe, sunny keyboards and, of course, a beachy name -- so why is the band's third album out around Labor Day here in the States? To live in a world of endless summer -- like, say, the All-Girl Summer Fun Band -- gets old; part of summer's "specialness" is that it goes away for nine months of the year (or so says the reviewer from New England). Tyde frontman Darren Rademaker, set up in California, understands this. Over the course of three albums, Rademaker cuts bright sunny pop with wistful and yearning lyrics. He's carved a decent career out of being the kid staring at the sea out the back of his parents' station wagon after a long day at the beach.
Detractors may say that this is Rademaker's lone trick -- admittedly, the band's three albums are basically cut from the same Cosmic Americana cloth -- but really, nobody does it better. The band's nearest competitors are probably (the defunct) Beachwood Sparks and the Thrills, and Rademaker has cleverly folded those bands into his: the Sparks' (and Darren's brother) Brent Rademaker handles bass duties and Thrills frontman, Conor Deasy pitches in on one track ("Brock Landers"). If you can't beat 'em ...
Needless to say, Three's Co picks up where 2003's Twice left off. Opener (ahem) "Do It Again Again" is all sunny keys and riffs, with a dark undercurrent ("Jumping in the stands / Punching out the fans"), and "Brock Landers" -- which has little to do with the character played by Marc Wahlberg's character in Boogie Nights -- has a fun, fuzzy solo wrapped around a stabbing piano line and the oddly dark and scolding refrain "Jealousy will get you nowhere."
Too, there's this album's version of "Crystal Canyons", with the two-minute jaunt "County Line". And the band offers what may be the quintessential Tyde song, "Aloha Breeze". It sounds exactly like its title, with Hawaiian guitars and lazy keyboard solo, but also features Rademaker tossing out a lyric that sums up the entire band: a keening, pleading "Won't you come to the beach with me?" that's more anguished than celebratory.
There are a few new threads in Rademaker's beach blanket. It actually rains in the Tyde's universe on "Separate Cars" and damned if Rademaker doesn't sound exactly like the similarly cynical-wrapped-in-upbeat Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5. Really, McCaughey, from cloudy Seattle, may be Rademaker's closest analogue. The other new angle is the bluesy sound on "Ltd Appeal". It's a misstep that doesn't fit the band particularly well, but it does help shine a light on how well they do surf-inflected Cali-pop.
Three's Co. offers enough "new stuff" to ward off complacency (and criticisms thereof) while further strengthening the sonic and lyrical groundwork the band has already laid. The Tyde is either the best summery fall band, or the best autumnal summer band around. That means the Tyde can find a spot in your CD player six months out of the year.