The Innocent Bystanders recently dropped their debut EP, Attractive Nuisance. Hailing from San Diego, California, the band’s background and formation is unique, to say the least. Steve Berenson (drums, percussion) and Steve Semeraro (guitar) worked at a law school when they decided to start a cover band. Hooking up with Kaimi Wenger (electric piano, Hammond B-3 organ) and a few others from law school, they were in business.
Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns & Money” was one of the first songs the band learned to play. A line in the song declares “I am an innocent bystander,” which in legalese refers to those who might be entitled to damages. The band had a name. The EP’s title is also legalese, denoting something dangerous but seductively attractive to people.
Since their sound blends old school sax-powered funk, soul, and maverick alt rock, Attractive Nuisance pretty much covers their one-off brand of music.
The four tracks on Attractive Nuisance, written long ago and never previously released, acquired newfangled sonic shape while being recorded.
“Gotta Get Outta Here” conjures up the Talking Heads, as it is a ska punk-flavored tune with undertones of roots rock and what I call carousel-pop running through it. Ben Nieberg’s baritone imbues the tune with a luscious detached intensity that is semi-casual, yet concentrated with Springsteen-like energy.
“Highways” features Kath Rogers on lead vocals. Her voice assumes bubblegum pop aromas melded with country hues, as well as vestiges of punk pizzazz. I love the braying horns in this tune, infusing the music with a carbonated essence. “Emerald Eyes” is a funk-lite jazz tune rife with alt rock discharges. The plinking piano is marvelous, while the neighing sax delivers lush colors.
“Working Man’s Daughter” bestows heady flavors of psychedelic/dream pop fused with alt rock lounge music. While the description sounds horrible, the music is deliciously divine, sparkling, flowing, and glistening with shimmering textures. This is definitely my favorite tune on the EP because of its burnished surfaces.
Attractive Nuisance is wonderfully superb, quite unlike anything extant. It’s eccentric, innovative and oh so scrumptious. Attractive Nuisance is not dangerous, but it is seductively attractive.