The Broken West
I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
ands from Los Angeles blow up and then proceed to fuck everyone else over. From the Doors to Guns 'n' Roses to Red Hot Chili Peppers to System Of A Down to motherfucking Buckcherry, national fame has been taken as a mandate by these groups to try and become synonymous with the city, thus leading to stereotypes that take years to live down. Even “Entourage”'s garish theme song comes courtesy of Jane's Addiction, and they've probably got the best rep of the bunch.
Up and comers such as Cold War Kids, Little Ones, and Elvis Perkins have done a good job as of late proving that L.A. spans from Sunset Strip to Silver Lake, and the similarly minded Broken West (formerly the Brokedown) have a distinct advantage. Being on Merge Records kill these stereotypes dead. (No one ever accused Spoon or the Clientele of being a bunch of nonsense-spitting cocaine cowboys.) The Broken West fit in quite well, even though they're considerably less bookish than their labelmates. Yeah, that's Beckett in the title, but I bet he didn't write "I can't go on, I'll go on" thinking it would be applied to a resolutely unmoody album made for people who want a Matthew Sweet fix without risking ownership of something with "Stacy's Mom" on it.
I Can't Go On, I'll Go On is certainly more RIYL than "must-hear," but it’s no less worthy for its non-challenging nature. What separates the Broken West from the battery of obvious comparisons is that they realize writing lovesick Nuggets-rock won't get you nearly as many chicks as playing like you got a pair. "On the Bubble" and "So It Goes" begin the album like you thought it would when you read the one-sheet; booming drums, guitars that will only be described as "chiming" or jangly, and synth lines that avoid "gee, whiz—those '80s were wacky!" ostentation. I Can't Go On has a pretty even keel, but they most obviously nail it on "Down in the Valley." That's not a hook in there. That's something you'd use to beach a whale. Next time I listen to Being There, I'm gonna have it replace "Outta Mind (Outta Site)" on Disc 2 and I bet I'll end up liking it more. And you could probably toss in the barroom piano stomper "Big City" with it.
It's not a perfect record, but it's perfected, about as good as the debut from a band that traffics in this kind of music can be at this point. Sure, the slower numbers are far less rewarding than the frontloaded batch of alternate universe hit singles, but I'll let them learn on the job with "Like a Light" and "Hale Sunlight" if it leads to more of the paisley chord changes of "Shiftee" next time out. Lead singer Ross Flournoy isn't much for artifice: he begins "You Can Build an Island" with "Can you do me a solid?" and doesn’t sound ironic. But in light of the goodness that surrounds it, you give a little, you get a little. I Can't Go On is a (wait for it) solid, low-maintenance record that will probably get more spins than spots on best-end lists, but it's a fine way for indie's most consistent label to continue its winning streak before it drops the motherload on March 6th.