On The Outs
Frankie O'Malley, The Safes (Photos: Brushback)
Sometimes a band isn't much more than the sum of their influences, and while The Safes tread dangerously close to that point, I'm willing to give them a pass on it for now. I'm thinking the titles they pick out for their CDs are pretty stupid, too, but I'm not sure that stupid CD titles are anything that anybody really cares about (lots of people still buy Bon Jovi records, right?).
From reading the press they get, you'd think The Safes are awash in British Invasion influences-- the band itself owns up to this to some degree-- but if there's a breadcrumb trail back to the likes of The Beatles and The Kinks, it probably owes itself more to the glossy production on their most recent album, "Well Well Well", than anything else. "Bad Blood" sounds like nothing if not T. Rex, sure, and the cleverly layered vocals on "Only In Your Mind" blow away anything the Posies ever tried; but like most of the songs on the record, I'm reminded more of stuff like Cobra Verde, or a bunch of other bands like the Figgs that seemingly only Mike Faloon likes.
The Switch: Patrick singing, Frankie on drums
Like the drumming duties, which the band covers during live shows by having Frankie and Patrick switch instruments mid-set, The Safes switch styles from album to album and even song to song as effortlessly as any other band since, well, maybe the Replacements. "Family Jewels", written pretty much entirely by Frankie, kicks off with one of the best snotty punk scorchers ever, "Not To Keep", before bouncing around like a modern-day "Hootenanny" or "Let It Be". "Boogie Woogie Rumble", the 2004 5-song EP released on both CD and red 10" vinyl and penned mostly by Michael, wouldn't sound at all out of place next to the Estrus or Crypt catalog, as far as I'm concerned (The Safes even contributed a credible version of "Annalisa" to the Devil Dogs tribute compilation
a few years back).
Trying to spot a "progression" in
the band's sound is probably
missing the point, anyway, since
the band claims they usually have
two or three albums' worth of
material written at any given time
and when it comes time to put
another record together, they just
pick whichever songs happen to
sound best alongside each other.
Patrick, who wrote and produced
"Well Well Well", was quoted
years ago in an interview
as saying, "I love the Beatles
as much as the Dead Kennedys
and I admire Motorhead as much
as I do the Bee Gees", and while
I can't give him any credit for
the first two, the last two
make The Safes more than fitting
for the upcoming Crooked
Hook/Names For Pebbles reunion
tour that I keep hearing about.
From "Family Jewels" (2003)
Not To Keep (listen)
Do You Apply (listen)
From "Boogie Woogie Rumble" (2004)
Mind Meltdown (listen)
Mental Wheelchair (listen)
From "Well Well Well" (2006)
Bad Blood (listen)
Phone Book Full Of Phonies (listen)
Only In Your Mind (listen)
Since Trust Went Bust (listen)
The back cover to "Boogie Woogie Rumble"
Songs have reverted to listen-only files