Despite strong hints of Byrdsian jingle jangle pop and his definite preference towards a pre-millennium sound, it's hard to get a firm handle on this San Francisco-based artist's eighth solo LP. You won't get much of a clue from the long list of influences on Sean O'Brien's Facebook page which ranges from The Specials to The Stooges.
Even though he describes himself as "a veteran of the West Coast Californian rock scene", the record often seems deliberately amateurish as if he's afraid to appear too polished. O'Brien's wavering, untrained vocals (at times reminiscent of Edwyn Collins) also sound more British than American.
Reviews for his previous releases speak of them as 'growers' which perhaps accounts for the ironic title of the opening track:Master of the Slow Burn (although it only lasts two minutes!).
The curious mixed bag of tracks includes Kiss Full of Questions, an opaque love song of sorts, and the sinister surrealism of childhood memories in Three Snakes Caught (Good Eye Finnegan).
While the results can be intriguing, the downside is that the pseudo poetry of his lyrics often appears merely mannered and impenetrable as in the observation that "when you live inside the avalanche the sentence comes too late" on The Burden is Not Great.
Overall, it all comes over as an arty take on garage rock and it is too shapeless by far to make a lasting impact.
Sean O'Brien's website