Richmond Fontaine’s debut album Safety, released in 1996, shows some early promise, which they realized more fully on later work. Listening to it now, it’s not a million miles away from the likes of Whiskeytown.
Opening track Dayton, Ohio is akin to a ramshackle Lemonheads, as are the midtempo strums of Novocaine and Wagonwheel Motel. There are some 100 mile an hour tracks like Harold’s Club, Riverhouse and 1968, which have plenty of punky energy but don’t suit Willy Vlautin and co so well.
They are better when they slow things down, on the acoustic Settle and Safety. White Line Fever is again reminiscent of Whiskeytown, while the aforementioned Novocaine is a fine strum with the refrain of “17 reasons that I can’t explain.”
Later the 96 second Kid Steps Out Into The Road takes a bleak subject matter where this kid “duct-tapes 3 M-80s to his head and lights them” and combines it with a jaunty melody with a wonderful banjo part, concluding that “it’s the luck of the Irish in Reno, Nevada.”
All in all it’s a decent debut, with signs of what the band would become on future albums.