Release Date: Sep 9, 2008
Record label: Dead Oceans
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
With most contemporary bands either trying to do everything or do nothing, the Donkeys are a treat: They just want to write rock songs. Such a simple proposition has become increasingly difficult when most bands either fear sounding derivative (and end up sounding pointless) or worship their heroes to the point of plagiarism. There’s not much to distinguish the Donkeys from great rock bands of yore; the Yardbirds, the Byrds, early Rolling Stones, and a dash of CCR are enough to do the trick.
Like a 1970s country-rock band without the accents or heavy-duty amplifiers, the Donkeys offer up a sun-streaked batch of acoustic guitars, harmonies, and laid-back rhythmic shuffle on their second LP. It's difficult to hear music this nostalgic without riffling through a list of soundalikes, and the Donkeys inevitably draw comparisons to bands that pioneered such a hazy California sound, particularly the Grateful Dead and the Eagles. The Donkeys don't flaunt many Garcia-sized jams during Living on the Other Side, however, nor are their harmonies polished to a spit-shining glow like the Hotel California architects.
I didn’t get off to the best of starts with The Donkeys’ Living on the Other Side. A laid-back album of gentle West Coast pop songs, it had the gross misfortune of earning its first play on a dreary autumnal evening in Sheffield. I remember making a gruff remark about the derivative nature of the music and hitting eject just as Gone Gone Gone’s first verse lazily meandered into the chorus.
The Donkeys make music for late summer, harmonies lofted by the smallest hint of a breeze, tempos dawdling in August sloth, country-lazing guitar lines bubbling up, then subsiding. No effort is required to listen – nor is it rewarded. Living on the Other Side sounds as good the first time through as it's going to, perfectly pleasant but slight. No risk of jolting you out of your hammock at all.