(image via Amazon.com)
If you’ve ever read Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again”, then you have a rough idea of what I go through sometimes when I hear an album by a band like Cabinessence. Even if you haven’t read it, the point is pretty straightforward: you can’t go home again, because the home in question is more about time and memory than actual space or – in our case – sound. In other words, you can name your band after a Brian Wilson (and Van Dyke Parks) song, you can occasionally sound a bit like Brian Wilson, but you’ll never be the Beach Boys. Which is the problem – sort of. At best, you inspire nostalgia in the listener. At worst, you offend his or her (overly) delicate sensibilities. Luckily for the boys of Cabinessence, their sophomore effort Naked Friends sticks to the former with the trusty glue of their many influences and doesn’t let go all that often, making for a pleasant-if-occasionally-kitschy stroll down memory lane – a pretty, funky, psychedelic place deep in alt-country country. I should probably list those influences and earn your trust, dear reader, as a well-versed authority on the last 50 years of pop music. But instead, inspired by the language of nostalgia and the remaining days of summer, I’ll go on gut feeling: “Thought/Start” is the kind of upbeat, soulful clap-along I’d pick to open up a roadtrip mixtape. In a fit of summer laziness, I might even leave on the next track, “Blown a Test”, a surprisingly catchy plea to be released from an unfulfilling relationship. “Thumbs” and “Grace” should get you through the death of a summer romance and “Shouldve Known” will remind you of it when a few months have passed and the sting is gone. Did the band’s fondness for honky-tonk compete a little with the well-produced loveliness of some songs? Yes. Did I occasionally wish I was listening to My Morning Jacket, Electric Light Orchestra, Gram Parsons and (oddly enough) Super Furry Animals? Sure. But sometimes a good riff on what you’ve been listening to you for years can feel comforting, even a little bit like getting a letter from home.