The Broken West – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (Merge)
Given power-pop’s track record of posting lousy sales, it says something about any band that chooses it as their primary influence. The genre itself prompts such a primeval reaction among its supporters that it’s completely logical when a band gets caught up and starts bashing out their slight interpretation of it.
The Broken West’s interpretation of power pop adds a big tablespoon of their Los Angeles history to it, which makes their debut long-player I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On fairly unique for a genre that typically prides itself on staying close to the bone.
Don’t get me wrong: The Broken West isn’t reinventing the wheel here. Instead, the performances grab the wheel and take you on a journey down Laurel Canyon Boulevard on the way towards the Paisley Underground.
Previously known as The Brokedown, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On features twelve glistening tracks just like a scratchy old Big Star record, complete with era-perfect production that make it seem like the year Radio City was first pressed.
Frontman Ross Flournoy comes across fairly nondescript in many of the songs, but the rest of the band manages to cut the slack with spirited performances throughout. The up-tempo tunes are filled with all the appropriate harmonies, rhythmic piano, handclaps and guitar pedals that one expects of the genre. More importantly: they know what notes and effects not to play which ultimately prevents I Can’t Go On from becoming a period-piece homage and more like a Cliff Notes version on the history of L.A. power-pop. Or as Flournoy puts it during “Like A Light:” “You were right about me stealing all my songs / From the ones I never learned.”
Flournoy’s vocals are better suited during the album’s more intimate moments. On tracks like “Abigail” and “Baby On My Arm,” his voice blends perfectly with the overall mood by becoming “that guy:” the boyfriend sitting on some driftwood in front of a beach bonfire, unpretentiously singing and strumming an acoustic guitar while his girlfriend lovingly watches across the flickering flames.
The highlight, “Down In The Valley” (mp3), actually made its first appearance on The Brokedown e.p., The Dutchman’s Gold, a few years ago. Thankfully included here, “Down In The Valley” is a song so good that it segues perfectly into a classic like “September Gurls” and would ultimately stop you from being pissed if the rest of the album sucked.
It doesn’t. In fact, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On might be the perfect album to create some great memories to over the summer. That’s understandable: The Broken West sound like they’ve got some great memories of their own.