An inscrutable blend of the retro and the up to date, “Waterfall” combines a galloping, lonesome-Western feel with a bit of garage-rock psychedelia, a touch of present-day indie-rock earnestness, and the tumbly muddiness of an early R.E.M. song (aided by “Waterfall”‘s “Driver 8”-like bassline; and we’re in the same key here too). And yet those influences/attributes aren’t really as separate as listing them out makes them seem, because here in rock’n’roll-land, all the good and true musical strains intermingle and cross-breed and overlap as bands continue to combine them in interesting ways.
Singer Tim Cohen sells this one with his portentous baritone, bringing the National’s Matt Berninger at least a little to mind. And I think the words he sings, almost incants, have a lot to do with this song’s appeal, even as they are rather deliberately unfathomable—an unstoppable torrent of pronouncements playing the words “TV” and “radio” off one another in a way that makes more sense aurally than literally. But in the midst of the semi-nonsensical flow there is one central, striking comment, smack in the middle of the song: “The TV said that you can’t believe every little thing that you see/But you and I know from the radio that’s what we believe.” Suddenly we’re talking politics again (see above); so never mind.
The Fresh and Onlys are a quartet from San Francisco, together in one form or another since 2004. “Waterfall” is from the band’s third full-length album Play It Strange, due out next month on In The Red Records.