by Kelly Johnson
Sad Cactus Records has been busy lately. Based out of New York’s Hudson Valley area, the record label has been cycling out cassettes (and sometimes CDs) the past few months from eclectic indie pop artists such as Superteen, Abi Reimold and Off Drugs. Now, we’re happy to be sharing the premiere of its newest release, Pals by Big Fred.
Big Fred is the project of Rochester resident Conor McCann. He handles guitar, bass and vocal duties on Pals with Dylan Vaisey on the drums. Big Fred’s debut release is five quick songs; the longest one clocks in just a bit over two minutes, but McCann manages to cram a lot of melancholy and humor into these brisk tunes. The pacing and delivery on Pals recalls the playfulness of Fat History Month, especially on the rhythmic “Dog Food.” Assuming the viewpoint of a dog, McCann reflects upon his state: “Mom and Dad/I know these songs are sad/Don’t worry I’m making new friends/Hands to pet my head/Pull ticks on my leg.”
Pals’ stream-of-conscious feel and loose melodies make the album hard to grasp on the first few listens, even with its nine minute run time. But the shambolic qualities slowly fade with repeat listens. What slowly begins to take shape is a meticulous construction informing the nervous oddities in McCann’s brain. On “Peaches” he sings, “Sleeping alone ain’t hard/But waking up’s the pits/I’m having stress dreams/Where I’m losing my dick,” over crashing, fuzzed-out guitars before lamenting, “If my dream girl’s just like me/How the fuck are we supposed to meet?/If I’m at home every Saturday/And she’s at home every Saturday.”
With so many ideas crammed into the short run-time, Pals demands repeated listens in order to suss out the richness of its levity. “Peaches” isn’t a cover of the Presidents of the United States of America song, by the way. I forgot to mention that.