The Exbats have turned out a classic '60s pop album that somehow manages to sound completely current in 2021. Given that Inez McClain and her dad Kenny have been making music together for over a decade, it wouldn't be quite right to say that Now Where Were We finds The Exbats "coming into their own". But the album does complete the band's transition to a pure pop sound. On this release, the McClains and bandmate Bobby Carlson dig deep into their love for mid-'60s American pop music. When I saw that The Mamas & the Papas and Sonny & Cher were primary reference points for Now Where Were We, I figured this album would be up my alley. I was not wrong!
Recording with Matt Rendon at his Midtown Island Studios, The Exbats certainly had the perfect engineer to help them realize the sound they aspired to. Now Where Were We is classic not just in style but also in recording approach. There's no high-tech trickery going on here -- just a real band playing and singing music straight to analog tape. The result is an album that sounds like it could have been made in 1966, but with lyrics and a perspective that are fully contemporary. In terms of musical influences, the album touches on so much of what made the '60s remarkable: psychedelic and baroque pop, girl groups, bubblegum, R & B, and even country music. The album's 12 tracks are loaded with instantly memorable choruses, majestic harmonies, and lyrics which skillfully imbue dark subject matter with hope and humor. Written last year over a nine-month period, Now Where Were We is The Exbats' pandemic record. It's full of songs that acknowledge a bleak time but also find cause for optimism. How can you not love a pandemic record that opens with a song about Scooby-Doo? And while this album has its weighty moments (the spectacular "Hey New Zealand" is a haunting ode to climate change), it's all in all a feelgood pop record. In particular, songs like "Best Most Least Worst", the Shangri-Las inspired "I Don't Wanna Feel Dead", and the beautiful "One Foot in the Light" throw lifelines to anyone overcome by the despair of 2020-21. It's probably cheesy to proclaim that this album will make people feel less alone in tough times, but I can't think of a better way to say it.
Now Where Were We tackles the complexity of the COVID experience with the most fundamental musical approach. As a songwriting team, Inez and Kenny McClain excel at crafting timeless pop songs that are catchy and melodious and impossible to resist. If you experience the "Where have I heard this melody before?" sensation, that's half the fun! Now Where Were We is that rare pandemic record that's actually enjoyable to listen to and that rare old school pop record that appeals to every conceivable generation. Get it now from Goner Records!