Every so often, an act writes a song so good, they’ll spend the rest of there career being judged by it. Think “Big Country” by Big Country — a song so superlative, so perfect, that nothing else — no matter how good — would ever measure up to it. Such is the case with the Pharmacy, whose “Dig Your Grave” has seen more play in the Nuthouse this year than any other song.
The single on which that song appeared, and from which it drew its name, came out earlier this year, and pretty much secured its position as my favorite thing to come out in 2012, with the EP-ending track, “Burn All Yr Bridges” coming in a close second as my favorite song for the better part of six months.
Now, the Pharmacy has seen to release the LP containing “Dig Your Grave.” Entitled Stoned & Alone, it’s good, but everything simply seems to be leading toward that one particular track. The cuts which lead up to it — “At The Top Of The Ivory Stairs” and “Sure,” in particular — work that dour, down-tempo folksy garage vibe really well. Think the Kinks, but at the end of a long evening at the pub, just strumming guitars and doing piss-takes for their mates.
The rest? It’s all a little too upbeat. The Pharmacy work best when they bring the pace down slightly, and bouncy numbers such as “Where Do You Run To?” don’t stand out nearly as much as when the group plays with sonic dynamics, mixing the meter of their songs. The upbeat stuff that comes on the second side just comes off like it’s running away from the standout track as quickly as it can.
It’s the tracks on Stoned & Alone that don’t play according to convention that work best. “Sure” ratchets up the speed, and then descends into stomping simplicity. Rat-a-tat-tat — then, suddenly, tap. Tap. Tap. It’s brilliant, and that’s what makes the first half of this album work. Sadly, the rest is bog-standard jangle-pop.
Stoned & Alone is due out November 20 on Old Flame Records. You can pre-order it right now.