Saturday Looks Good To Me – Sound On Sound

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

I can’t think of a band that needed a mop up collection like this more than Saturday Looks Good to Me. As acknowledged on the back cover, Sound On Sound gathers “limited and unavailable” tracks previously shared with the world only via CD-R and vinyl releases with very limited runs (like, 100 copies) from 2000-2005.

What I Think of This Album

This is a deceptively delightful collection of lost tracks from Fred Thomas’s Michigan-based indie-pop project. Perhaps due to its size or to the lack of a unifying style, the album as whole comes across as disposable, but on a song-by-song basis, it’s really fun and consistently high quality. A true fan-oriented release, part of the appeal is in hearing how different some of these songs are from what normally ends up on SLGTM’s full-length albums.

Highlights include the winsome “Can’t Ever Sleep” and the charming “Your Small Heart.” It is too easy to fall in love with Godzuki singer Erika Hoffman’s vocals on “Summer Doesn’t Count (Unless You’re Here With Me),” and the surprisingly barbed guitar part is a welcome twist on the band’s style. “Diary” would probably fail in anyone else’s hands, but this sincere romanticism is precisely what Thomas excels at and may be the best song on the album. 

The brief and reverb-cloaked (reverb-burdened?) “Liquor Store” is a gleeful experiment in lo-fi damage. “Labcoat” manages to be both mumbly and delicate. “Pet Store” is an instrumental that Spector would’ve lost his (deranged) mind over. And, the garagey version of “The Girl’s Distracted,” with the dirtiest guitar tone I’ve ever heard from this band, is a nice surprise.

“Light Bulb Heart” (what a great concept – illuminating, warm, fragile) is way out of left field, with a hard soul rhythm, tough girl sing-speak vocals, and *another* nasty guitar solo. In fact, soul informs several songs on this comp, as evidenced by the harmonica and handclaps on “When You Go Out Tonight” and the uncharacteristic energy (including a gritty sax part) of “Girl of Mine,” which honestly could’ve been a Wilson Pickett number. “Hiding” is pure Marvelletes, and “Parking Lot Blues” sounds like a Jackson 5 hit that never was. And once you get past the annoying intro, “I Don’t Want to Go” is another girl-group/soul type number.

I appreciate how the programmed beats of “Nervous” perfectly evoke the title. This is not the only track here that, by virtue of the synthesized drums and the naked sentimentality (to say nothing of the songwriter’s preference to have others sing lead), provokes comparisons to the Magnetic Fields. See also “It Sounds Like They’re In Love With You.” 

The Ramones cover (“Listen to My Heart”) doesn’t work – surprising, as both bands share roots in girl-group sonics and songwriting. There are two more covers. One is “Blue Christmas” (popularized by Elvis and also recorded by the Beach Boys). This is outshone by competing holiday song “Christmas Blues,” with a gospel organ and the umpeeth guitar solo that raises my eyebrows on this disc. There is actually a third holiday tune here:  the instrumental part of the chorus of “This Time Every Year” is to die for (which disputes Thomas’s lyric that “nobody wants to die that way”), and the buried guitar solo is awesome. The other cover is “Learn to Live With Your Heartbreak,” the only prior version of which I have been able to identify is from a 1967 Patty Duke album comprised mostly of songs from Valley of the Dolls. Presumably, the cover came from the Patty Duke Fanzine #5 release from 2003, of which 500 copies were pressed.

The distorted guitar of “Disaster” – which is actually dominated by the ominous Zombies-like organ – still manages to surprise even with the song slotted in at track 27. The clarinet and horn parts remind me of Morton Stevens’s “Hawaii 5-0 Theme.” Almost lost among the other songs is the moving “Last Year,” with a critical harmonica (or it might be an organ) part. Sleepy final track “Own” paraphrases liberally from the Smiths’ “I Don’t Owe You Anything.” 

As usual, the guest list is long and includes vocalists Kelly Jean Caldwell, Erika Hoffman(-Dilloway) (as she is billed here, which I have never seen before), Ko Melina (the opposite of Hoffman(-Dilloway) insofar as she is credited only as Ko, which I have also never seen before), Betty Marie Barnes, and the mysterious Dara. Plus instrumentalists Aidan Dysart, Elliot Bergman of Wild Belle, Zach Wallace (His Name Is Alive), Ida Pearle (a name I can only assume was stolen from a silent film star), and others, but this time, surprisingly, not Warn Defever.

The Best Thing About This Album

The guitar tone – I understand why Thomas doesn’t employ it for regular releases, but it really adds a new dimension on these tracks.

Release Date

February, 2006

The Cover Art

The artwork is terrible. The image actually seems appropriate to Fred Thomas’s ethos; I just don’t like how the idea was executed.

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