By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
As distinctive a lyricist and songwriter as Centro-matic and South San Gabriel frontman Will Johnson may be, the standout track on this EP is a cover—and it's an unlikely, left-field cover at that. Under the South San Gabriel banner, Johnson and his bandmates wind down "All Night Long (All Night)," Lionel Richie's slice of mellow early-'80s cheese, from an upbeat Caribbean-spiced party starter into a melancholy nostalgia trip. Accented with shimmering Rhodes piano and weepy pedal steel, it manages to convey the buzzy, twitchy fatigue that starts to set in around 5 a.m. And while the original might have ushered a rush to the dance floor a couple of hours earlier, this cover is what you'd put on just as a handful of old friends start to sink deeper into the couches, contentedly succumbing to the whiskey and beer. As fun as Centro-matic's rocking live takes on the song have been in the past few years, South San Gabriel (basically the more contemplative, intricate side of Centro-matic, with additional players) make it truly their own.
But that's not to say that the other six tracks of this EP should be overlooked.
The four Centro tracks are on the quiet side for that project: The fuzzy "No, They Ain't Mine" comes closest to classic Centro four-on-the-floor bar rock, while the somber "Christmas '83" (the year "All Night Long" came out, incidentally) portrays a lonely, disappointing holiday experience.
These tracks may be left over from the 2008 Centro/SSG double-album Dual Hawks, but they hardly sound like leftovers.