He is White Fence. He’s the first among equals in Darker My Love. And he’s just hired on as a gun with the Strange Boys. Tim Presley is a busy guy. Compared to Darker My Love, Presley’s day job, the music on White Fence Is Growing Faith sounds pretty mid-fi and slap-dash. What it shares with DML is an almost encyclopedic appreciation for late Sixties rock sounds and styles – that and a song conscious sensibility. Listen closer, it’s clear that however home studio sounding White Fence’s music is, Presley puts a lot of love into the playing and presentation of the sixteen pop nuggets on Is Growing Faith. What at first reminds of Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert (yeah, Alex used an ‘r’) is, in fact, not bashed out, but a meticulous one-man band studio concoction, rough edges retained for sheer verve.
Presley’s songs and arrangements suggest that he has the complete Nuggets and Pebbles collections playing on an endless loop in his head. Beyond the garage attitude and sonics, though, lies deep major icon identification with the Byrds, Velvet Underground, and especially the Kinks. In fact, the Davies love here is so thick that about half of these tracks sound like lost treasures from some Ray Davies equivalent of Pete Townshend’s Scoop anthologies. Tunes like “Sticky Fruitman Has Faith,” “Tumble Lies and Honesty, (great clippity-clop, cowboy percussion)” Get That Heart,” “Harness,” and “Art Investor Collector” showcase Presley’s Kinks obsession, especially Kinks circa Face to Face and Something Else. But given his panoramic nostalgia vision, Presley is also deft at pulling together inspirations that one might not have considered sympathetic back in the day. “Sticky Fruitman” is Kinks meets the Velvet’s trebly “ostrich” guitar sounds. “Tumble” combines the Davies Brothers and distinctly American analog keyboard emanations that suggest the likes of Southwest FOB or Strawberry Alarm Clock. “Harness” is Kinks after punk noise. “Stranger Things Have Happened” practically merges the Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” with the Stones’ “Something Happened to Me Yesterday,” White Fence/Presley making with their British music hall moves.
When Presley isn’t busy evoking the Kinks, he pays homage to Big Star, particularly on the opening cut “And by Always,” which also reminds initially of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Presley even brings some Grateful Dead, vintage Aoxomoxoa, touches to tracks like “A Pearl is Not a Diamond.” And he pulls a tongue in cheek punch at his King of Rock ‘n’ Roll namesake; “When There is no Crowd” initially recalls the Incredible String Band (think Wee Tam) but segues seamlessly into some affectionate Elvis paraphrase (not parody), lifting lines and the curled lip vocal qualities of “Baby, Let’s Play House.”
It would be wrong to write such admittedly derivative music off as pure pastiche. From McGuinn’s chiming twelve-string sound to acid-tinged leads that echo Country Joe and the Fish’s Barry Melton or Lou Reed, Presley affectionately masters his mentors in service to his always-fresh songs. By the time the lone cover song, a version of Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” transformed by Presley’s strobe-like, sixteenth-note organ part and some intensely Dylanesque harp, closes Is Having Faith, you’re convinced that Tim Presley’s crafted a rock vision of his own. It marries disparate elements harmoniously, and is no less personal and dynamic for its obvious debts to his mentors.