Back in the ’90s, the shoegaze genre was as much a lifestyle as a musical aesthetic. Shoegazing was true to its name, more about sculpting a place to lose yourself than slashing guitar solos and rockstar heroics. With its daydream guitar tones, hypnotic melodies and the bruising combination of noise and pop, shoegaze was always on the precipice of reaching outside of a cult audience. LA-based quartet, Francisco The Man, is evocative of classic shoegaze while also capturing the immediacy of contemporary indie rock.
The band’s first LP, Loose Ends, is a memorable mash-up of gliding dream-pop, mesmerizing odysseys and snowballing guitars. For a first full album, it’s an uncharacteristically strong effort. That said, it does fall prey to a few pratfalls of a debut album.
Most problematically, Loose Ends feels at times like a training ground for finding the band’s true sound.
The band is as likely to hammer out power pop, a la Teenage Fanclub, as unspool into velvet-smooth krautrock epics that Bradford Cox would luxuriate over—but these hybrids feel like the work of two different bands.
Further, even at under an hour, the album needs a more shrewd editor to cut the fat. Nearly every one of the songs here overstays its welcome by at least a minute, and even if the self-indulgent outros don’t hurt these songs, they stagger the overall momentum.
Of the two musical identities that Francisco The Man vacillate between on its album, “In the Corners” is one of the strongest foundation rockers: a heavy-lidded chugger that builds a distinct sense of motion through its somersaulting bass line, while also establishing the acid-fried lyrical mindset through lines like “Poison in the water of my mind” and “With every word you disappear.”
“Progress” is even more visceral, a sugar rush in danger of crashing.
With its lunging snares, jettisoning bass line and gooey chorus resembling what one can only imagine Jonsi fronting a dream-pop band would sound like, Francisco The Man never sounds more confident and sure of its place as a band than on “Progress.”
“In My Dreams” is fully representative of the album’s worst issues. It’s one of two eight-plus minute songs on the albums and while it’s perfectly serviceable with its Yo La Tengo-esque freak-outs and its elliptical harmonies (huge shades of Deerhunter here), it’s too sleepy to be danceable, and too flimsy to be hypnotic. Cantino’s vocals function more as a Nyquil equivalent than the haunted Thom Yorke-style ambiance they seem to be striving for.
The other eight minute track, “I Used to Feel Fine”, makes a much better impression. Starting with a pneumatic pulse before hurdling into guitar work that would make Doug Martsch misty, the song is a monster. It’s less clear-headed about its lyrical aims, but it possesses an urgency that “In My Dreams” and the hazier side of the album is sorely missing. After pinging around for five minutes, it even dribbles off into a climax that feels like a noisier, more frazzled version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanctism.”
Loose Ends is a promising debut, full of vivid guitar work and smart, weird songwriting, but it’s also the work of a band that needs more time to evolve.
Nearly every tracks sputter on for at least a minute longer than necessary. Though the album is sequenced to separate the more fleet-footed and introspective songs, it still feels discombobulated as a whole. Like the mystical vagabond in 100 Years of Solitude from which they took their name, Francisco The Man are never quite able to find their place.
Francisco the Man – Loose Ends tracklist:
- “You & I”
- “In the Corners”
- “Big Ideas”
- “In My Dreams”
- “It’s Not Your Fault”
- “I Am Not”
- “I Used to Feel Fine”
- “It’s True, It’s You”