I’m a pushover for the big, chiming guitar sound that characterized Big Star and many of the “paisley underground” (or Children of Nuggets, if you prefer) bands that eventually followed in their wake. And a mere five seconds into “Until There Was You,” the opening track on Librarians With Hickeys’ Long Overdue, I knew I had found another set of practitioners of that approach.
The band’s vocals, led by guitarist Ray Carmen, have an everyman quality, assuming everyman could sing in tune like Carmen can. The tunes are uncluttered, straightforward affairs with interesting touches – inventive middle eights, for example – and accessible lyrics. The group is mostly about the guitar/bass/drum aesthetic, but some carefully-placed keyboard textures add to the record’s appeal.
The delightfully jangling “That Time is Now” features additional vocals by Lisa Mychols, a power pop artiste in her own right (look for a review of her latest here soon). Mychols’ sweet pipes add just the right note to Carmen’s lead.
The sonic characteristics of the songs vary to the point that Long Overdue sounds a bit like a compilation; there’s a slight lack of unity in the production aesthetic. But that’s not to suggest that any of it is subpar, only that it’s inconsistent. And perhaps the only “off” quality on the entire collection is the (synthesized?) saxophone intro and fill work on “Next Time.” The texture seems out of place on the album, and the song isn’t enhanced by its presence.
There are plenty of strong moments that more than offset that, though. The wide-screen arrangement of “Obsession” is impressive, and the garage-punky combo organ of “Leave Me Alone” shows a different side of the band. “Poor Reception” sounds like across between The Music Explosion and ‘80s college rock, which is to say it’s very nice indeed.
The band is effective on more contemplative numbers like “Alex,” but Librarians With Hickeys are on more solid footing with simmering-then-soaring rockers like “Looking for Home.” The latter is one of the strongest cuts on Long Overdue. The band takes things home with the insistent, sweeping “Black Velvet Dress,” a strong finish to an enjoyable record.