Over the last decade, Fred Thomas has operated a revolving-door policy that surpasses even Mark E. Smith's (of The Fall). But so far his fluid approach to Saturday Looks Good to Me's line-up has always come up trumps, delivering such vivacious sonic offerings as 2007's excellent Fill Up the Room.
Album number five, One Kiss Ends It All, once again finds the basement-born ensemble's foreman ringing in the changes. Over the course of this 40-minute affair, Thomas hosts a variety of faces old and new to create a record that re-mines a penchant for heart-quivering, brass-plastered arrangements.
Predominantly delivered through the porcelain intonations of three female vocalists (Carol Gray, Amber Fellows, and the more familiar Betty Marie Barnes), Thomas' latest creation draws on sweetened '60s pop melodies and C86-era indie lilting.
Predictably, what ensues is an album drenched in nostalgia. "Empty Beach" is a Camera Obscura-lite shimmer of guitar chimes and corduroy-clad sensibilities, while "Sunglasses" is a jangling polka-dot pop endeavour that recalls the crystalline splendour of Phil Spector-styled girl groups.
While these breezy charms are easy to embrace, the cutesy retrograde of tracks such as "Negative Space" and the ineffective "Johnny" come off as a weary step backward. And for a progressive like Thomas, that's a worrying development: the cast may be changing, but the sound is beginning to feel all too familiar.
First published here for Under the Radar