Any band placing themselves in a revivalist genre risks getting caught up in nostalgia, creating a facsimile of past triumphs rather than updating them and furthering the style. This includes garage rock, as a slew of acts have gotten caught in a kaleidoscopic cage of distortion and ‘60s pop. As White Fence, however, Tim Presley has carved out a niche making rock music through a vintage, sun-speckled lens and often to refreshing results. Since starting the project in 2008, the Darker My Love frontman has been churning out compelling and simple rock music. His sixth LP (and followup to the four-track-recorded Cyclops Reap), For the Recently Found Innocent, continues Presley’s trajectory of making each successive album more approachable and tight.
Like his ‘60s-minded kindred spirit and Hair collaborator Ty Segall (who also appears on For the Recently Found Innocent), Presley can be exceptionally hard to discuss because he’s so productive and so consistent. After his previous records were all doused in lo-fi crackle, home-recorded charm, and drum machines, this LP marks a hi-fi change for Presley. While still fairly ramshackle, the production quality is crisper and the songs benefit from the more professional production. Presley’s bedroom recording techniques are gone, as are the pre-programmed percussion and piecemeal mixes. Instead, there’s a clear fidelity throughout, whether it’s West Coast psych pop (“Anger! Who Keeps You Under?”), slacker Americana (“Hard Water”), or Laurel Canyon folk rock (“Goodbye Law”).
While his lo-fi tendencies certainly suited his earlier offerings, the songs on For the Recently Found Innocent are allowed to breathe and develop. “Like That”, the closest thing Presley has ever come to blissed-out pop, is one such track. Though its pop inclinations are fully formed and well-executed, Presley has admitted in interviews that he “was almost too embarrassed to record it.” Fortunately, Segall convinced him to press record and the final product is one of Presley’s best songs to date.
The rest of the LP, while amping up the production value, still maintains Presley’s freewheeling, mad scientist approach to garage rock. Closer “Paranoid Belt” chugs along with searing, dual guitar interplay. It’s the loudest of the 14 tracks, ending with a fuzzed-out bang as opposed to a crackling, lo-fi whimper; Segall’s influence is completely evident, too. As loud a note as “Paranoid Belt” finishes on, the rest of the album manages to stay largely attention-grabbing without the added decibels; the guitars are lightly overdriven on tracks like “Fear” and “Raven on White Cadillac” rather than using heavy, blown-out distortion.
For the Recently Found Innocent does suffer from Presley’s fairly awkward faux-English vocal affectation. The way he pronounces the word “arrow” in “Arrow Man” (like he’s just finished writing The White Album in India with George and John) is unequivocally silly, as are many of his Anglophilic tendencies. If it’s not The Beatles, it’s Village Green Preservation Society-era Kinks. Considering his California roots and the fact that Presley has the songs to back him up, it’s a bit distracting and unnecessary. Those somewhat grating tics aside, some of the album’s tracks, including “Actor”, veer too close to cookie-cutter genre pastiche — something Presley has largely managed to avoid in the past.
Though every recent White Fence record has been billed as his “most accessible,” For the Recently Found Innocent really cements the transition from homemade raconteur to studio professional. Presley’s music could easily have a 1967 time stamp, making an alternate universe tour with The Byrds or The Kinks reasonable if you imagine hard enough. But despite the obvious throwbacks and Union Jack-dreaming accents, Presley’s songs, while brief, are more than just genre homages.
Essential Tracks: “Goodbye Law”, “Raven on White Cadillac”, and “Like That”