It's pretty obvious why, as The Mamas and Papas once informed us, "The preacher likes the coast". Apart from the sunshine and beautiful bodies, it's probably because California is currently producing the best and most interesting music out there.
Looking like the 2008 version of The Band, The Union Line conjure up images of railroads, panhandling and dusty old souls that know the secret of the world. The music in 'Pearls' is like shimmering icicles driven along on rolling drums. Throw an immensely catchy chant into the brew, and out comes a great song.
Meanwhile, 'Goldmine' opens with a riff similar to a slower version of 'Someday' by The Strokes. From there it moves into entirely different lands as the singer keeps deludely affirming that "there's gold, in this mine". There's a neat blend of old-time tunes and modern rock at work, dropping you into the centre of the Californian Gold rush.
Slower than the two previous songs, 'Dirty Water' has a laid back, insouciant feel that could be born of all that sunshine. It would be right at home on a warm and relaxed summer day with its shimmering guitars and harmonies. 'Strangers' is a piano led highlight that gathers strength and pace as it goes along. Its golden sun is soaking wet, bouncing in puddles with care free "bah bah der der ders" until the ivories cease tinkling and the song ends.
Heading deeper into the album, 'Rich Man's Tune' has that feeling when the party ends at dawn, the sun comes up and we all walk home. It's a gentle, swaying tune complete with noisy chatter in the background that suggests a party that's in wind down mode. A sublime, lazy guitar riff slips through as if from nowhere and again transports the listener elsewhere, guiding us to our bleary eyed beds and warning: "Take not more than you are given/Only a thief rewards himself."
This album could have grown up next door to 'After The Gold Rush'. While any comparison to Neil Young is lofty to say the least, as a first album this is a fine accomplishment by a band with enough talent, originality and enigma to endure and evolve. Right now, California is gleaming.