Recently I had the pleasure of seeing The Safes in concert and let me tell you, they put on an insane show. There were all of 15 people in the club but it didn’t matter. They played with more energy than many bands I’ve seen playing larger full houses. If they come to a town near you…run, don’t walk, to the club and check em’ out.
The Safes are the O’Malley brothers from Chicago, IL. Namely Frankie O’Malley on drums/guitars/vox, Michael O’Malley on bass/vox and Patrick O’Malley on drums/guitars/vox. Kinda like the Ramones except they are really brothers.
So the brothers O’Malley really tear shit up on stage. Patrick and Frankie take turns manning the sticks. Now, flashy guitar pyrotechnics usually rub me the wrong way but Frankie is one hot-shit guitarist let me tell ya. No doubt.
Frankie wrote all of the songs on the first Safes Album Family Jewels. The album is more nuanced than the live experience. Musically, it covers a petty wide area from the Brian Jonestown Massacre-ish “Do You Apply” to the beat jazz of “F.D.J.” to the 1950′s style crooning of “Memory Lane”. It’s an amazingly good first album
The next release is Boogie Woogie Rumble, a 5 Song EP on St Louis’ own Pro-Vell Records. It was recorded at Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders in Detroit and definitely is the most “punk rock” release by The Safes. It also sounds the most like the live experience with each song just hammering you, one after the other. All the songs were written by Michael and Frankie on this one, and Michael handles most of the vocals.
The latest release by The Safes is Well Well Well from 2006 and it is another winner. It sees them sort of polishing everything they have done up to this point. Hooks galore. It was produced by Patrick who I believe wrote a lot of the tracks as well. It’s on this album where I finally hear the oft-mentioned Cheap Trick comparison. Like Cheap Trick, The Safes are from Chicago. They both balance BIG power-pop hooks with punk drive. They both do it with a relatively effortless polish.
The Cheap Trick comparison downplays the Irish element of the band, though. As another Midwestern kid that grew up in an Irish-American family, I can tell you that you can hear it in these guys. The earnest need to hammer you with hooks. Fuck, just listen to one of the Bloodstains Across Ireland comps and then listen to The Safes, and tell me you don’t hear a similarity.
So yeah…I have read a lot of different reviews of The Safes and one band that I haven’t seen mentioned yet that they do remind me of is The Undertones. There are definite similarities between the two full length Safes albums and the amazing second Undertones album, Hypnotised. In both instances, you get the impression that these respective bands are about to burst out of the limits of punk rock. Unfortunately, in The Undertones case this meant embracing Feargal’s neo-soul pretensions. A tragic end to one of my all-time favourite bands.
So it begs the question, what are the Safes gonna do next? I look forward to finding out.