The White EP
Independent release, 2010
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/12/2010
Remember the surrealistic Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There, in which Cate Blanchett, among others, was cast as the chameleonic Bobby Z? Well, riffing on that theme, imagine if the director moved on to a Motown biopic in which he cast the Arcade Fire in the role of Sly & The Family Stone.
I don’t know what the hell that would sound like, but it probably wouldn’t sound unlike The Americans.
That is the case because this band of six very white guys and gals delivers classic-Motown-inspired soul music with the ramshackle exuberance of the truly fearless. There are moments when this EP feels like it must a bizarre parody of some sort—until the adrenaline kicks in again and it returns to feeling like someone finally figured out how to bottle pure joy and convert it to ones and zeroes.
Opener “Try (Nobody Wants To)” finds Charlie Klarsfeld (lead vocals / production), Kyle Olsen (drums), Cissy Clemens (vocals), Corey Dozier (bass), Matt Chef (keyboards) and John Stenesco (sax) quickly establishing the vibe of classic soul reimagined by modern lo-fi indie rockers. Once Aussie guest Daniel Merriweather sings the bridge and Clemens appends a chorus from “Higher And Higher” to the climax of the song, the mission statement is complete.
“The Antitode” and “Not Still In Love” riff energetically on classic Motown motifs, from slinky r&b grooves to punchy horns to chorused background vocals, bringing a hint of early Chicago to the former while adding a dash of Supremes to the latter. The stupendously snappy Dap-Kings horn section adds punch to both “Antidote” and “Try.”
“Diamond” is the first cut here that sounds like it was made after 1970, coming off rather like a lost track from Joe Jackson’s 1982 Night & Day album, albeit with big, Gordy-esque female background vocals. “Rooftop Love” similarly borrows from multiple sources all it once, from Brill Building pop to a certain Beatlesque swirl in the bridge.
Speaking of Beatlesque, closing cut “Requiem” notably guest-stars Sean Lennon on a number that opens in panoramic Brian Wilson form before Lennon’s dreamy background vocals drape the chorus in poignance and the ascending guitar asserts itself for the Abbey Road-like bridge.
The Americans caught me in the mood for some finger-snapping soul and I’m glad of it. The White EP swings and grooves and pulls sweetness from the air in a hundred ways, mixing sonic flavors old and new like a mad chef to create a platter of kaleidoscopic, nearly perfect pop.