There are few things in this world I hate more than bland solo projects that just sound like a weaker version of the full band (I’m looking at you, Joe Perry Project). Just do something DIFFERENT, you know? So you can imagine my relief when I pressed play on the new material from Fresh & Onlys’ frontman, Tim Cohen. Yes, relief mixed with confusion, joy and a cocked eyebrow or two.
The Fresh & Onlys sound is often classified as “garage” or “Nuggets-influenced” and that would be about right. Cohen’s vocal contributions to the band have been quirky. In the band’s song “Nuclear Disaster,” he sings “What is much worse than the worst thing ever? / The sooner it’s over the louder the laughter” over jangling guitars just before a brief harmonica solo. This could be seen as a window into the strange world that created Cohen’s two simultaneous releases.
Though Magic Trick and Bad Blood EP are similar, it’s interesting to note that while a lot of artists are wont to make the EP just an extension of the album, Cohen makes them two separate beasts entirely. Bad Blood focuses more heavily on Cohen’s strange side. He croons across odd pop ditties that ask the hard questions: “Who built the pyramid scheme? / Was he a slave or a king? / Don’t you want to know?” It’s reminiscent of the odd brand of Scandinavian music that people just don’t really get.
While Cohen brings that same odd lyrical sentiment to Magic Trick, it somehow seems more metaphoric, like it MEANS something more. The full-length also features much more conventional music, all leading the album down the “accessible” path. “Don’t Give Up,” the first single, is practically radio-friendly! “The Spirit’s Inside” is maybe less so, but it’s one of the more fantastic romps across the two record tour.
Cohen’s inspiration from 60s and 70s-era pop music, coupled with crooner-style vocals and his weirdo garage rock sensibility, make for a very interesting listen. He is at times sweet, at times dark and almost always slightly off kilter. You know the original Mario Bros. game when you get to world 8 and the sky turns black but you still find yourself in a world full of whimsy and oddity? That pretty much sums up Tim Cohen.
Magic Trick and Bad Blood are out now. Buy them at Captured Tracks.