You can’t really call Agony Aunts a super-group, since the musical entities that contribute members – the Corner Laughers, Alan Clapp, Anton Barbeau – are well short of Travelling Wilburys fame. Nonetheless, it’s a conflation of several estimable West Coast power pop bands, who work the same whimsical Syd-ish Floyd into Sell-Out-era Who garage psych territories as Dukes of Stratosphere and the Soft Boys. Big Cinnamon is the band’s second album, following 2009’s Greater Miranda, and it is clever and well-made, though a little precious.
The trick here is to layer the super sweet, super pop vocals of Karla Kane and Khoi Huynh and KC Bowman, with muscular guitar and drums. It works pretty well in the title track, with its swinging London swagger, its small-bore fanciful-ness (there’s a ukulele) and large-scale rock epic-ness, and the lazy, lyric “Undecimber” (where I believe Barbeau takes a larger role). But a lot of these songs tip cleverness into silliness, like the Brian-May-guitared “Uranium My Love” or the nearly unbearable yacht-rocking 1970s balladry of “You’re So Vague.”
The best songs are the ones that don’t try to be clever or witty or cute. “Cool Fresh Nights” is a power-chorded monster, a song rather than an inside joke, and it makes the rest of the album seem coy and premeditated.
DOWNLOAD: “Cool Fresh Nights” “Big Cinnamon”