"I’m too sacred for the sinners/And the saints wish I would leave." - Mark Heard
Monday, September 10, 2012
Review - Fair to Midland - Arrows & Anchors
TRIPLE WOWZERS! This album is STILL ripping my face off. RIKKI TIKKI!!!!
To be fair, I should point out that Fair to Midland is, well, a bit silly. There’s some back story about how they got singled out by some member of System of A Down who had his own label and eventually they all lived together forever in a castle made of candy that didn’t rot your teeth or expand your waistline, but that’s all hearsay. What the discerning music aficionado should know is that their latest album, Arrows & Anchors, is a rollicking good time.
A number of miniatures are sprinkled throughout this album, little ditties that are under one minute in length. I won’t waste any more time on them except to say that I’ve already wasted too much time on them, though they do add nicely to the ADHD feel of the album. And speaking of ADHD, the first song, “Whiskey & Ritalin”, is a massively heavy song that twists about with happy abandon and disconcertingly clean vocals. “Musical Chairs” contrasts clean sections with thick, solid walls of guitars and smart-arse lyrics such as “I could be kicking the bucket/ But you should know I never had very good aim.” The soaring, feel-good chorus on this song will lure your finger helplessly toward the repeat button. Strings temper the aggression of “Uh-Oh” but the handclaps splash cold water on the brain of those expecting straight forward proggy pop metal. Creatively juxtaposed pedal steel, banjo, crushing guitars and a crusty violin make songs like “Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow” make me think of Estradasphere, R.I.P. Interestingly, “Short-Haired Tornado” makes me think of Panic! At the Disco, if’n the Disco boys had found the “Heavier” button on their distortion stomp boxes. “Coppertank Island” introduces itself with a math-rock guitar figure and lyrics of “Ladies and gentleman/ We are in a bit of a predicament.” The convoluted riff opens up in the chorus with joyous harmonized vocals of “I’m a whale!” Please try to refrain from singing along while wearing headphones because friends and family will wonder about your mental health. It will not be easy.
I can’t leave this here review without a mention of “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” Even if you hate growly vocals this song will grow on you. Starting softly with piano and hushed vocals of “Listen to me” the song explodes with a gruffly delivered repetition of the title. Spoken lines from the book lead to a tranquil portion that sounds like it was ripped straight from a Simon & Garfunkle album before dive-bombing back into manic guitars and another “listen to me” section, although this time with a full string section. Rinse and repeat and if nothing else, shell out a buck to get this song from iTunes.
I’ve read that their prior album was even better than Arrows & Anchors. On that I plead ignorance (though I intend to find out) but this one is full of great sounds and energy. There’s a definite sense of humor that runs alongside touches of nu-metal, power pop, prog, experimental, classic rock, cinematic post-rock and British Invasion. And while Fair To Midland never really settles in any one of these styles they don’t spastically jump from one to another. Well, not in every song. The result makes Arrows & Anchors a very pleasant and varied listening experience that will not rot your teeth or expand your waistline.