Most of What Follows is True
After 10 years, four albums and a perennial local renown, I feel like I know The Sights' singer/guitarist Eddie Baranek. Then again, it's been some time since their last record. And even so, The Sights' albums thus far, with their choppy guitars, shimmying riffs, Stroh's-guzzled howls, strutting drums and monosyllabic this-and-that-and-ohh-girl-yeah style lyrics might not have actually given me the best picture of who this guy is. What I do know, musically, is much of The Sights' first three records play like grinning, raucous romps through dusty record shops, spinning everything from blues to latter-British-invasion to mustachioed, solo-indulgent '70s rock. Most of What Follows is True, with its sporadic brow-raising bluntness in autobiographical lyricism, could be the most illuminating, or at least heartfelt, Sights album yet.
Musically, it's simultaneously fresh, yet worn and comfortable, with three new members flexing their idiosyncrasies in instrumental inflection and switching off lead singing/writing. It's still flat-out rock 'n' roll, but noticeably, on Baranek's pieces, more candid.
Forgive the clichéd "once-was-lost-but-now-am-found" reading of the opening of "Nose to the Grindstone" — the hum of a switched-on amp fills the silence until a fuzzed-out fiery guitar knocks in, declarative, growling, searching, until it's joined by drums and bass in a swaying rhythm and sassy organ strut, leading to a harmonized chorus that resonates with an uplifting warmth from newer Sights members. Allow me the melodramatic reach, as I parallel this track's initial solitary guitar opening with Baranek — who almost saw his flagship band fizzle towards extinction through 2008, leaving him the sole-surviving member. That solitary guitar symbolizes Baranek adrift, but the accompanying guitar, rhythm and harmonies that flow in are like the rejuvenation the band saw through 2009, with the enlisting of bassist Dave Lawson, guitarist Gordon Smith and drummer Skip Denomme.
From there, musically, it rolls into bristling, unabashedly Kinks-ian kicked power pop ("How Do You Sleep") to the new members strutting their stuff on the waltzy happy-go-lucky pop of the Lawson-led "Tick Talk Lies" to the off-the-rails guitar tear of Smith's defiant "Take and Take."
But Baranek disarms you with heartening and honest ballads exorcising a past of inebriety and shortsighted wildness. He sends out thanks to friends and family on the jangly pop-rocker, "Have it All," then declares he's never been "so happy" on the cartwheeling, punchy fuzz pop of "Happy." Such exuberance is thanks to the girl named in song, via the cutesy McCartney-esque country stroll of "Maria." Lyrically, Much of What Follows reveals Baranek's somewhat uncertain path from late-'07 until now — this is the happy ending album. It's autobiographical, but more earnest and endearing than sappy, with some interesting experimental sonic constructions spliced into the characteristic firestorm guitar blues. It presents a now-humbled, golden-haired rocker, saying thanks and, on "Hello to Everybody," tells a story "bout little old me," getting into trouble but then finding the "girl for me." Shrugging off the past, he declares: "I'm gonna have me some fun." And more importantly: "I ain't done." — Jeff Milo
Worth a listen: "Have it All" & "Take and Take"