The Explorers Club

Pub date June 17, 2008
WriterTodd Lavoie
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

REVIEW There have been a fair number of artists over the years who have tried to channel the classic Wall of Sound orchestral-pop of mid-1960s Beach Boys recordings, but the number of success stories is considerably shorter. Far too often, imitators have sacrificed songwriting in their fixation to replicate the Pet Sounds vibe. Enter the Charleston, S.C., septet the Explorers Club, which focuses without apology or irony on recapturing the essence of Brian Wilson’s so-called "teenage symphonies to God." Everything on their debut, Freedom Wind (Dead Oceans), has been faithfully rendered, from its lush, four-part harmonies to its evocative timpani-rolls to the CD booklet’s resemblance to a well-worn record sleeve with the vinyl edges showing through. The good news? No mere mimickers, these young romantics pen instantly hummable soda-fountain swooners that truly deserve the comparisons they seek.

Awash with sleighbells, cascading drum fills, and intricately arranged falsetto harmonies, Freedom Wind<0x2009>‘s odes to girls and summer fun throb with a sense of teenage elation. Witness the blood-rush chorus that sends "Do You Love Me?" into senior-prom melodrama, or the now-or-never urgency of "Last Kiss," tempered slightly by the rueful acknowledgment, "Summer dreams don’t last." "Forever," with its soaring Brian Wilson–esque confession, "Every time I think of her, I cry," should make more than a few girls weak in the knees, while the sublime "If You Go" — billowed by pillow-soft sighs puffing away against a keyboard-twinkling backdrop — points to the Explorers Club’s equally impressive absorption of ’70s AM-gold motifs.

THE EXPLORERS CLUB With Lightspeed Champion, Flowers Forever, and DJ Aaron Axelsen. Fri/20, 9 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422,