It’s easy to hate British music journals. It’s even easier to hate them when they are right. The Face, circa summer 2002, labeled San Franciscans the Pleased as a band to watch in 2003. I listened to their self-released EPs and was intrigued, but few others were catching on. There was no Pleased-mania that ensued when the band returned home from their touring of the mother country, and neither their scruffy hair, nor their scruffy jeans, nor their scruffy music could muster up the brouhaha typical in our post-Strokes world. Even I gave up my mission to spread the Pleased love, as there was nary an LP in sight, resigning that 2003 was clearly not a year to watch the Pleased. Just as I turned my back, out came the long overdue debut full-length Don’t Make Things. And with that release, the British press was proven correct, once again.
Most impressive about Don’t Make Things is that it showcases the Pleased — formerly known as the Please — making big music while keeping its feet firmly planted on the ground. The opening guitar strums of the album, dreamily setting the stage, brings in tonally deep drumming and singing. Before you know it, drummer Genaro Vergoglini knocks out crisp beats, the dueling guitars begin to grind, and vocalist Noah Georgeson complains that “we’ve got no style, we’ve got no hope.”
Although plenty of tracks from the Pleased’s 2002 double EP One Piece from the Middle are repeated on Don’t Make Things, they have morphed into sonically rich and lush songs. This should not be confused with overly elaborate. “No Style” has the typical “garage rock” threadbare quality, yet simultaneously sounds deep and grand. An eerily enchanting keyboard line from Joanna Newsom and altered vocals by Georgeson, added in the LP version, bulks up the song’s layers, while each verse reveals the simple, tattered sound of a guitar being strummed.
Songs manage to be familiar while still surprising; this could be attributed to the influences, ranging from The Stone Roses to Echo and the Bunnymen, that on occasion come to the surface. Yet these influences are too blurred to have the band labeled as derivative. Surprises come small, in the slight bass line change that occurs early in “Never Come Home,” or large, in the climatic wall-of-sound gem that is “Orange Peter.” Slight disappointment stems from the inclusion of new songs and the exclusion of old; “Oh Canada” seems to go nowhere, while I was hopping for “The Conversation,” with its great hook sitting amidst an average song, to have been reworked and included on this album.
The Pleased can’t please you every time, but they manage to succeed for most of the album. With the release of Don’t Make Things occurring late in the year, the Pleased didn’t get much time to be a band to watch. To beat the Brits at their own game, I’m announcing that the Pleased are a band to watch in 2004.