Girls gone wild

Making Friends and cultivating Strangers
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  April 8, 2009

090410_All_m
SENDING THE COVER BANDS FLEEING All the Real Girls. 

Maybe it was a good thing after all that Jeremiah Freed packed up and moved to Los Angeles. Sure, the band broke up, but in the process bassist Matt Cosby met Pete Donovan and managed to drag him back here to Maine. Teamed with Cosby's brother, Wyatt King, on drums, and now Loverless frontman Elijah Ocean on guitar, they've created a band in All the Real Girls with every bit of the excitement the Freed could generate in these parts. 

All the Real Girls | with Holy Boys Danger Club + Guitar Bomb | at the Empire Dine & Dance, in Portland | April 18

There's no way to listen to their debut disc, My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, and think otherwise. Released last Tuesday, the album is a throwback to big rock and sing-along radio, with smart literate writing, bringing classic sounds to the future like the Arctic Monkeys (but with more soul) and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (but with more melody). They bite Springsteen in the opening "The Night We First Met," reference the Boss (along with the Beatles and Dylan) in "Bringing it All Back Home," and manage to create a tangible location much like that Asbury Park of yore.

It's a record of place without being specific to any one city, or even time. We hear about wild dreams of Axl Rose, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, and Joe McCarthy in "Kid from California." The "Mayors of Minneapolis" features "ahh-ahh" backing in a chorus of descending chords while a Hammond crashes through the title body's "meeting of the minds to persecute the guilty." And "Ogunquit '74" must have been a summer to remember (whether anyone in the band was actually alive then or not).

In that last one, guest vocalist Isis Alis is a great mid-album surprise, coming in after high-mixed and crisp drums from King and a bass line that builds tension fit to quarter a horse. She pairs with Donovan to tell a tale of suburban angst, where "I play old German hymns on the piano every night/While my brother stayed out late and started fights."

She was a surprise to the band, too, a last-minute find by producer Jon Nolan when a scheduled singer came up ill. The result is the album's best song and its beating heart.

Nolan consistently gets just the right guitars, sometimes sneering and whiney (Donovan's childhood bud Ben Harms plays on the album, but he ain't livin' in Maine, so they pulled in Ocean), sometimes reminiscent of his old band Say ZuZu in their warmth. He even helps the Girls cook up an alt-country number with "Teenage Sweethearts," where Donovan relaxes into a lower register to lay the nostalgia on even thicker. "And when you think about the first time that you kissed," he sings, a thrill in his voice, "well, you don't know if she remembers it like this." Harmonica and a touch of high-end xylophone lend the appropriate mist for your eyes.

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