Up until now, the only great thing I knew to come out El Cajon, California, was the infamous Lester Bangs. Being well acquainted with Bangs’ story, I know that he often cursed the little town as a place of nothingness, a place embodying the direct English translation of El Cajon: the box. After hearing Greater California’s latest release, I now know two great things from this box of a town.
Although originally from Long Beach, Greater California recorded their latest LP, Somber Wurlitzer, in the lackluster El Cajon, and spent the majority of the studio time during the wee hours of the night. I don’t know if it was the time of day, the town itself, or the sounds of the album’s namesake that inspired this sleepy and wandering sound or a combination of them all, but whatever it was worked well.
The genius of Somber Wurlitzer lies in its smoothness; Greater California has captured the harmonizing genius of Simon and Garfunkel, without losing the entire record to mindless nostalgia. I haven’t heard an album utilize the idea of a retro sound this flawlessly since Matthew Sweet’s 1995 release, 100% Fun, and the eerie vocals remind me of Sweet himself.
Each song is unique in its own way, from the automatic familiarity of “Looking In,” to the heat created by the bass guitar on “Patterns.” I couldn’t find a single bad thing about this album. Greater California set out to create an atmospheric record, and they did just that. The nostalgic harmonizing will get you hooked and the fluidity of the bass and organ sounds will keep you listening to the end.