White Fence exhumes the sound of the 60s on For the Recently Found Innocent
Throughout For the Recently Found Innocent, Tim Presley (recording as White Fence) exhumes the sounds of the 60s, but unlike his peers (and collaborators), doesn’t do much with the aesthetic, other than recreate it as painstakingly accurately as possible.
Garage rock has a certain charm that turns me into a doe-eyed fan boy faster than a Parquet Courts song, whether it’s those guys, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, The Men, Mac DeMarco, or a plethora of other lo-fi guitar/bass/drums outfits. But unlike the crème de la crème, (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, The Men, even Tame Impala), White Fence doesn’t hold to the tenets that make decent retro-centric music interesting; namely the inhabiting of the values, and not the aesthetic of the idolised sound. Worse, where The Men filter 70s style open-road-rock through the decades that lie in between then and now on this year’s Tomorrow’s Hits, White Fence simply takes the sound of The Small Faces, The Kinks and The Sonics and leaves it at that.
Thus For the Recently Found Innocent sounds like a lost record from 1966, and frankly, it might as well remain lost. No melodies stand out particularly, nor any riffs nor intros nor beats nor anything really rises above the rest in any meaningful way. The album passes by, catching your attention initially with its stringent adherence to sounding like a 60s record, but ultimately leaving no mark on your face or hunger for seconds. This is odd, because Presley has worked with Ty Segall, and his last album was released on Castle Face Records, the label owned by John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, both of whom are stellar exemplars of the way 60s garage rock can still be fresh and exciting. Seemingly none of their ingenuity has rubbed off onto For the Recently Found Innocent.
The biggest problem is the comparison with other albums that lean on the genius music of the 60s and 70s. Take Tame Impala. It’s hard to talk about the Kevin Parker’s outfit without mentioning or discussing 60s psychedelia, but where Parker rises above someone like Presley is his understanding of the intention of the movement. The psychedelic bands of the 60s were experimenting with newly available and affordable technologies at the time; numerous guitar pedals like distortion, whammy, phasers, and delays, as well as experimental recording techniques and processes, and early synthesizers. What Parker does in Tame Impala is make music that looks back on that era with affection, but not devotion, and continues that interest in contemporary technology. He experiments with layered effects on guitars, filtering drums through distortion or delay, manipulating the music from left speaker to right and back again. He continues to experiment with new technology, making his admittedly retro-centric music fresh and interesting. But most importantly he understands what it is to be influenced; not to steal, but to learn, and continue what those before you began.
White Fence, on the other hand, simply inhabits the sound and the aesthetic: wiry guitars, nasally vocals and simple beats. To its credit the record does have the warmth of tone that makes early Kinks, Who and Yardbirds records so endearing. But that alone isn’t enough to prove White Fence is recognising the decades and the musical evolution between his record and those it’s made in honour of. Even his lyrics remain in that aloof, quasi-mystical metaphoric landscape of acts like Jefferson Airplane (“Wolf Gets Red Faced”) or the odd character style words of The Small Faces (“Anger! Who Keeps You Under?”). Unlike the careful blend of metaphor, the mundane and magic realism in Thee Oh Sees or the pessimistic directness of Parquet Courts, White Fence never hits meaningful ideas in his lyrics, which instead keep themselves firmly out of the realm of understanding.
I wanted this record to be great. It has such potential, what with Presley’s collaborators and friends being who they are, but sadly For the Recently Found Innocent doesn’t live up to the impressive standard we regularly see from garage rock these days.