As much as it may seem otherwise, Douglas Martin did not write this review while strung out on LSD.
I’d like to consider myself a writer who stays on top of things, one who is abreast of everything that’s currently going on in the vast expanse of indie-rock right now. Which makes it all the more surprising that I had no clue about lo-fi psych progenitor Tim Presley and his solo project, called White Fence. It even came out on Woodsist and everything!
Presley, who is better-known as both the singer of Darker My Love and a card-carrying member of The Strange Boys, also briefly played in The Fall. Perhaps he was backstage with Mark E. Smith before a show and was referred to as “fucking lazy”– surely Level Green on the scale of Mark E. Smith insults– and that’s how this project and the record that bears its name came about. Regardless, Presley holed up in his bedroom and pounded out song after song and ended up with thirty-eight minutes of sun-kissed, acid-speckled folk-rock.
Maybe it’s appropriate that it took months for White Fence’s debut record to find its way to me, being as though the record sounds like an artifact, a time capsule buried in the ground eons ago and unearthed here in 2010. Songs like “Ring Around a Square” and “Sara Snow” are laconic bits of psychedelia, floating at a near-glacial pace and featuring easygoing vocals swaying in the breeze along with the tall grass under a purple sky. White Fence is as good an advertisement for hallucinogenic drugs as anything.
Midway through the record, “The Gallery” captures the same feeling of blissful stasis, only buried underneath a thick layer of tape decay, woozily nodding off before a single gong hit ends the tune. Sonically, White Fence plays like Guided by Voices in an alternate universe, one where Robert Pollard is an out-and-proud Deadhead instead of worshipping at the altar of Saint Townshend. But while peak-era Pollard’s greatest gift was his love of brevity, Presley’s talents with short-form songwriting is more of a mixed bag. “I’ll Follow You,” one of the only four tracks on the record that skirt past the three-minute mark, is one of the best songs on the record; a breezy folk tune complete with both glockenspiel and toy piano, “I’ll Follow You” is meandering in all the best ways. The more punk-like rave-ups, particularly “Baxter Corner” and the 53-second “Box Disease/Today Bond,” don’t connect nearly as well when the corners are deliberately frayed.
Furthermore, the “Happy Days Effect” is well-employed here, where a work of art paints a clear portrait of a scene twenty years back in time. But where a show like Happy Days was a sitcom filmed in the 70’s and based in the 50’s, White Fence is much more complex. Released in 2010, the album sounds like it was recorded in the 90’s while referencing the drug-addled mid-70’s. It’s pretty safe to say that Eric Forman of That 70s Show would have loved this record. That is, if it didn’t slip under his nose.–DM