Album Review: Tony Molina – In The Fade

The San Francisco singer-songwriter does more in 90 seconds than most can do it five times that

It’s a strange thing, sitting down to write a review that takes longer to read than the album does to listen to. But that’s Tony Molina for you. The king of “leave them wanting more” is all about Guided By Voices-esque brevity, but only if Robert Pollard was consumed by The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub and 90s power pop. Molina’s utterly brilliant 2018 album Kill The Lights played out in 14 minutes. In The Fade is an epic 18 minutes long, but only because he squeezes four songs into those four extra minutes.

It’d be tempting to see it all as a gimmick, or even laziness, but everything on In The Fade is fully formed, from the autumnal Neil Young-referencing instrumental ‘Aye Aye My My (Into The Fade)’ to the unbearably pretty cover of Tony Iommi’s ‘Fluff’. Molina doesn’t need to draw these songs out to three or four minutes when they’re so powerful in a quarter of that time.

Tony Molina - "The Last Time" (Official Audio)

The classic power pop fuzz of ‘The Last Time’ implies Molina might be moving back towards his earlier solo material or his work with Ovens. There’s an overdriven guitar break just after the solitary chorus that suggests it could be the best Weezer song since Pinkerton. Straight after though, Molina is in classic jangle territory, halfway between those Byrds and TFC pillars with the simply gorgeous ‘Not Worth Knowing’, like a Gene Clark/Norman Blake lovechild. ‘Leave This Town’ starts off as early Fountains Of Wayne before abruptly lurching to a halt and restarting as pastoral folk, just in case two minutes was enough time in which to get bored of one thing.

Tony Molina - "I Don't Like That He" (Official Audio)

Molina has admitted to a certain contrariness in style. He’s previously kicked back against suggestions that the mellow Kill The Lights was a sign of maturation. But if that leads the listener to expect a whole album of punk-adjacent power pop, Molina’s not going to let you have that either. Even the Ovens-referencing ‘Ovens Theme Pt. 4’ is worlds apart from an Ovens song. In The Fade dials up and down the volume at will, giving neither one nor the other but a perfect mix of both, sometimes in just a solitary minute.

Tony Molina - Not Worth Knowing (Official Audio)

What can and should be expected is the prettiest melodies and mind-burrowing guitar lines. The brevity makes it seem like Molina can just throw these out with infuriating ease but songs like ‘Burn Everyone’, ‘Not Worth Knowing’ and ‘I Don’t Like That He’ don’t just come tumbling out. If it’s a third of the length of other records, then it seems Molina has put three times the care into each second of it.

In The Fade by Tony Molina is available to buy and on all major streaming services now.