Detroit indie-pop trio the Friendly Foes are, essentially, time travelers. Now, when you're working the power-pop angles, it's hard not to get caught up in exhuming and attempting to reanimate the greatness of hooks long-past. The Foes, however, have managed a more specific, but slipperier bit, of sugary trickery. They conjure the energy, spirit and sweaty enthusiasm of mid-'90s alt-rock while stripping away the too-easy ironic distance and erasing the backward-looking reverence and reference. Instead — much like Cheap Trick, Redd Kross, Matthew Sweet and Sloan before them — they infuse the sounds of what came before with a wide-eyed bounce, fuzz and adenoidal angst.
Sure, there are jams like "Paint it Gold" that could have been penned by Sloan's Chris Murphy or the Flashing Lights' Matt Murphy. Guitarist and singer Ryan Allen's delivery on "Couch Surfing" feels an awful lot like "Come Pick Me Up"-era Superchunk — and that's a good thing. And, indeed, bassist Liz Wittman channels Juliana Hatfield's heart-on-her-sleeve breathy growl and utterly girlie mojo on "A Million Scenes" and "Line Up." But the Friendly Foes make it feel like this shit never got bastardized and commercialized and turned into something utterly generic.
Producer Dave Feeny knows a thing or 20 about making great power-pop and finding the sweet spot between the comfort of the classic and the thrill of the new. And of all the musical guises under which Ryan Allen operates, the Friendly Foes feel the most lived-in. There are songs here! All of the above is a longer way of saying that if you love your two-and-a-half minute pop songs inward-looking and outward-buzzing — and if you like to jump around your living room like a damn fool before you head out on Friday night — then So Obscene is a welcome addition to the shuffle for which you'll never need to bust out your cutoff cargo pants, thermals and flannels.
Friendly Foes play Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Majestic Café, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Lovvers.
Chris Handyside writes about music for the Metro Times. E-Mail [email protected].