California's rich musical history gives San Diego's The Donkeys plenty to draw from, and stylistically, Born With Stripes is a sampler plate, touching on sunny pop, beach rock, slacker alternative, psychedelic jams and alt-country. But the band is tight and talented enough to make it all work, thanks in part to the clear and crisp mix from Thom Monahan and the easygoing charm of drummer/vocalist Sam Sprague.
The album opens with "We Don't Know Who We Are," a love song built around a slinky guitar and only-in-California metaphors like "I'm Redford, you're Newman on the take / you're a 7.6 earthquake." Next is the equally infectious "I Like The Way You Walk," which shifts the sound just a bit toward alt-country.
"Kaleidoscope" is spacey and psychedelic, while "Bloodhound" is reminiscent of Tom Petty's "Breakdown," and "Ceiling Tan" has clear ties to the Grateful Dead. Elsewhere, the band offers the plaintive ballad "Valerie," as well as the sitar-infused instrumentals "West Coast Raga" and "East Coast Raga."
The Donkeys play vintage rock that doesn't sit still in any one style, repeatedly mixing and combining vintages—enthusiastically, if not always seamlessly. After a few listens, a distinct personality emerges from that long string of influences.
The title Born With Stripes hints at what makes it all work so well: The Donkeys is a band that's comfortable in its own skin, or rather, its own multi-hued stripes.