With the Tories' debut album Wonderful Life, this Southern California foursome makes good on the work left undone by a Northern California foursome: the Jellyfish. While Wonderful Life is thankfully not a Jellyfish rip-off, it does take the most engaging elements and styles from the two Jellyfish albums, particularly Spilt Milk, and incorporates them into the Tories' own sound. Lead vocalist Steve Bertrand is also a lyrical dead ringer for Andy Sturmer, and that only solidifies the comparison. The similarities between the Tories and the Jellyfish may be pronounced, but that's very far from a bad thing. For a '90s power pop band to sound like one of the best and most short-lived acts of the same decade is even welcome, as the Jellyfish had so much farther left to go. That being said, Wonderful Life can stand on its own merits; the soaring "Gladys Kravitz" (the album's first single) references the neighbor on Bewitched, and pop songs like the catchy "Happy" or the ballad title track speak for themselves. There's also a distinct Southern California sensibility, such as the lyrics to the glammy "Spaceships in the Sky" or the ballad "Greenhill," and it's nearly always enjoyable when bands inject local flavor into their music. In fact, there isn't a weak track here, and that's a lot to say for any album, never mind a debut.
Wonderful Life Review
by Jason Damas