At least Tim Presley’s still making records which stand out from the norm and show off his quirks.
White Fence has primarily been a one-man band project. On its latest album, I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk, that one man, Tim Presley, shifts credit where credit is due. On 14 varied tracks, the longtime California musician’s DIY craft frequently recreates the heyday of the eclectic British rock plied by The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Move and early Pink Floyd—but with mixed results.
Presley’s Anglophilia, with ‘60s spacy guitar and British-accented vocals, is a far cry from his early punk band Nerve Agents. After he shifted into psychedelic punk-pop with Darker My Love, he captured the attention of Mark E. Smith, and when one of The Fall’s lineups predictably imploded, Presley’s then-charges were recruited for tour support and then, on the 2007 album Reformation Post TLC, the recording studio. Backing up Smith, Presley and his DML bandmates can be discerned clearly as they fill out and boost The Fall sound. A few years later, Presley resurfaced as White Fence, working with like-minded Ty Segall and unnamed instrumentalists. As Presley’s career has progressed, his songwriting and singing have matured, meshing intricately with a nimble and frenetic guitar skill and his growing interest with keyboards and almost childlike minimalism.
As White Fence has been idle for a while, Presley’s partnership with Cate Le Bon as DRINKS has kept him busy. That duo pivoted away from the dense arrangements of White Fence into a lo-fi fussing about and experimenting with effects in the studio. The subsequent turn to electronic noodling has its good points and bad points. “Phone” and “I Can See You” recall John Cale’s stern delivery; Syd Barrett echoes on the title track and “I Love You.” Jeremy Harris of A Band of Bees contributes piano and keyboards that provide a less whimsical tone than that of DRINKS, but this release still leans towards keys rather than riffs, with the lysergic rock of “Neighborhood Light” more exception than rule.
“Lorelei” hearkens to whatever Presley’s work with Le Bon can be called—not solo, but a softer sensibility. “Indisposed” features a lounge-worthy tune which will please those wishing for any compatible melodies from Gruff Rhys, with or without Super Furry Animals. The tougher approach of “I Saw Snow” kicks more, combining a slack key guitar with a heavier impact. But Presley fritters away any accumulated energy with “Forever Chained” and the second part of “Harm Reduction.” These take Presley into by now familiar methods: An impression of Ray Davies’ winsome tone and a new wave synthesizer in the former track, both of which may delight fans of the twee.
But those accustomed to the guitar rock that Presley and collaborators have enriched for the past two decades with increasing quality and impressive harmony will find I See Larry’s Hawk nestled closer to DRINKS than The Fall. Still, the late M.E.S. might be chuckling as he looks down on a fellow who cannot stay with the same style for long. Presley here demonstrates his willingness to try out whatever occurs to him. It may not pack the punch as potently as swaggering White Fence, but at least Tim Presley’s still making records which stand out from the norm and show off his quirks.