CD Review of Start Again by The Singles

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Start Again
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Sound Artifacts
Released: 2007
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It seems like a lifetime since I composed the following sentences about the Singles’ debut album, Better Than Before, for, ahem, another website:

In an interview on the (Rainbow Quartz) website, the Singles' lead singer/ rhythm guitarist Vince Frederick says, "Our main goal is to record two albums a year. I hate how long bands take to release a follow-up album." Given the sheer enthusiasm of Better Than Before, it's easy to imagine the band making good on their goal. Now, whether or not Rainbow Quartz is going to be willing to release two albums a year... that remains to be seen.

Apparently, I have an overactive imagination, given that the preceding words were written over three years ago, and it’s only been within the last few months that the band’s sophomore album has finally seen the light of day.

As far as the delay goes, it’s decidedly telling that Start Again was, in fact, not released on Rainbow Quartz but, rather, on Sound Artifacts Music, a new imprint that was recently begun by the Singles’ frontman and songwriter, Vince Frederick. After giving the record a spin, though, it’s extremely hard to imagine why the band’s former label would’ve taken a pass on putting it out; Start Again provides just as much instant enjoyment as its predecessor, borrowing bits and pieces from the best in ‘50s rock, ‘60s pop, and ‘70s punk and melding them together to create a catchy-as-hell whole.

The kick-ass opener “I Want You Back Now” confirms that the band’s return is a welcome one, and then it’s followed by the cheesy, fun keyboard riff that opens “Love Is Just a Game.” There’s light Beatle-y pop (“The Most Beautiful Girl”), surf-inspired guitar (“When Will She Be Mine?”), plenty of tracks that indicate familiarity with the “Nuggets” box sets (with “Hypnotized” arguably the best of the bunch), and rockabilly (“Cryin’ Over You”), plus songs powered by handclaps (“Annette”) and “la-la-la’s” (“Goodbye Little Girl”).

Okay, if we’re to be brutally honest, maybe Frederick’s voice could be argued to be a little thin at times. Fortunately, the music he provides is so consistently crunchy, the melodies so memorable, that you end up focusing far more on the power of the Singles’ rock, anyway. Perhaps most important is that, although the music is unabashedly inspired by the band’s influences, no two songs really sound like they’re drawing on the same reference point, thereby avoiding into the sonic rut that so many other retro-styled artists fall into. It’s no wonder that Little Steven loves these guys…and as endorsements go, one from Mr. Van Zandt is about as good as a garage-band-worshiping band like the Singles can get.

Well, besides this one, of course.

~Will Harris