By: Eric Greenwood
The Please couldn't have worse timing for its retro-new wave guitar pop, considering that the quintet sounds shockingly, disturbingly like The Strokes. If The Strokes hadn't just created a firestorm of polarizing press last year with its reinterpretation of The Velvet Underground and The Feelies complete with skinny ties, white belts, and tight pants, then The Please would have an easier time infiltrating college radio. As it stands now, though, The Please will be tarred and feathered with Strokes copycat accusations that will ultimately destroy any momentum the music itself might otherwise build.
The Please needs to start its PR spin campaign right now if it wants to stay afloat in today's ruthless underground music scene. The band should flat-out deny that it's ever even heard of The Strokes, much less ever having been influenced by it. Sure the plan would likely backfire, but it beats the hell out of taking it on the chin. Hailing from San Francisco, The Please at least has continental divide on its side. And The Please has a female keyboardist. All you have to do, though, is stick your thumb over the girl in the press photo, and you'd swear it was a picture of The Strokes.
The element that will be undoubtedly be overlooked after the rash of early dismissals is that the music on this EP is actually pretty good. The Please has surprising tautness and restraint for a quintet. Clean, jangly guitars drive the songs in short, angular spurts. The baritone vocals are melodic and eerily familiar. The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms sprang to mind immediately not only because of the monotone vocals but also because of the vacuum-sealed sound of the guitars and propulsive drums. The vocals are much cleaner than The Strokes' Julian Casablancas' but share some of his stylized inflections all the same.
The dual guitar attack on "Secret" is quirky and melodic. Both guitarists trade off alternating melodic lines, which change pace so quickly it's almost disconcerting. The bass is barely noticeable, hanging onto low-end root notes in what sounds like a fingerpicked style. The drumming is plain and simple, gaining prominence only through the band's lo-fi production aesthetic. The singer stretches out the syllables in the song's title to make it sound like he's saying "cigarette" instead of "secret", which is kind of a cool effect. It's a notable pop song. One that would certainly catch the ear of any Feelies fan.
The guitars are harsher on "No Style." The Please flexes its rock muscles a bit here. The music swaggers in a menacing clang of guitars. The vocals punch in the chorus, revealing more versatility and confidence. "The Conversation" is a driving burst of angular pop. The dark feedback that hangs over the beginning of "Orange Peter" explodes into an energetic squall only to recede again. The Please showcases its simple yet effective dynamics, recalling the twitching nervousness of early 1980's new wave. Then, the circular bass line in "About Me" evokes early Echo & The Bunnymen while the whiny vocals seem to mimic Mick Jagger circa "Ruby Tuesday."
The Please obviously wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. I just hope it's braced for the inevitable backlash from Strokes-haters in the media because the similarities are close enough to do some permanent damage. If the band can weather the storm, then it might be able to produce an album of relevant tunes all of its own.