It would seem a band that had toured with Q and Not U, the Black Eyes, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (?!) which also featured members who were once in the Make Up, Nation Ulysses, and Fidelity Jones, as well as contributors to Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and Fugazi on record, would involuntarily garner heaps of hype. Which is why I was surprised to hear about French Toast's past only after I brought up their webpage to start this review.
I personally picked up the EP after seeing them on the Black Eyes/Q and Not U tour, and got pretty much what I expected. Six well-written, well-executed indie, with pretty clear punk roots and a definite experimental side. While lacking in both complete subtelty and gripping hooks, the EP has an odd way of enveloping the listener. A wealth of sound is produced both live and on record, even more remarkable considering there are only two members.
The EP opens with one of its stronger tracks (though, there are no real weak ones), "Breakfast." It also reveals one of the albums minor flaws. On the tracks with vocals (there are a couple [THAT MEANS 2] instrumental tracks), the lyrics at times seem to be almost an afterthought, sounding sometimes akward and forced . The drumming on the track (I'm not even going to attempt to identify who does what, because I'd probably get it wrong) is superb, setting a mid paced tempo without getting too boring. The guitar has some sort of echoing sound effect; there is the occasional use of a synthesizer; it all sounds great.
The next two tracks comprise of a more upbeat tune and one with a more complex rhythm; they kind of serve to establish a unique sort of twist for French Toast to imprint upon the world of indie-pop. Then, unexpectedly, two instrumental tracks - the second more focused on noise and synthesizer than the first - transition the listener into "Were Did You Go?"
The closer is the type of track that will most likely end up on every mix you compile for quite some time. The song takes all of the duo's strong points to a pinnacle, as the guitar lines race up and down a memorable drum beat, all set to vocals that will stick with you for quite some time after listening.
As for the whole "serious DC band" stigma, while French Toast does drop political references somewhat obscurely into their songs, the music has an undeniable dancey feel to it underneat all of the undeniable musical talent.
The recording quality is constant throughout the whole record, and while it isn't perfectly clean, each aspect of the performance receives appropriate attention.v
All told, this debut probably would've been mentioned a lot more in the press had it been released on Dischord (although it is still available through Dischord). Instead of hype, however, the listener is presented with a band that still has a lot of room to gel and grow, but is still ready to present some very respectable and noteworthy tunes. Hopefully French Toast will be one group from DC that doesn't meet an early end.