“Great Surround” – ‘The Fatales’
It’s not as epic as I would like it to be, but nonetheless, it’s an album. It’s Friday, yes, that time of the week again: when the chugging of beer, the chaining of cigarettes-unt-smoke and the pre-mixed drinks just don’t quite satisfy. And I think it’s safe to say, it’s the end of a shocking Semester, in my opinion – two terms down, one to go, and a whole bunch of other crap for Year 12. VCE’s a bitch, peoples; I don’t think people ever truly appreciate what we put our children through, enough…
… So, I’m slightly sad to say, during my two-week ‘break’, which is actually more like casual/flexible homework-days, with lunch and a free breakfast, that I’ll be working my ass off until it’s sore and blue and talking. Yes, a talking ass. And, as a direct result, due to the lack of decent albums, a shortage of headphones, and singers, I’m putting my reviews on hold. There’s no definite answer as to whether the Joint Reviews will go ahead, and ‘hey’, I might even manage to put a review in if you guys are lucky and the albums are worth it.
But until then, it’s all just “Great Surround” and Michael Hodder’s magic fingers…
It’s a difficult album, in my opinion. I would have much liked to review ‘The Temper Trap’ and their latest release, but found it wasn’t quite as ‘epic’ as I would’ve liked it to be. Their single-release, “Sweet Disposition”, was, in my opinion, mainstream-making. I’m sure “Triple J” will pick ’em up, but that’s an album and a song for another review, on another day. Instead, ‘The Fatales’ bring you their full-length feature album, “Great Surround”.
It’s hard to place, in context with a genre, and to be honest, it’s not you’re average band. It’s eclectic in it’s music, but it’s no “Dark Night Of The Soul”. It’s like – how can I put it – backwards-avant-garde. In some respects, it’s playing with electric elements, wavy synth, pure synth, but then it’ll shift from full-blown synth, to classic-acoustic. Like with their use of violin. The 80’s synth is fleeting, hence the awkward genre-placement. It’s a generous mix of shoegaze-rock, meets bliss-rock. It has pop-like beats and rhythm, and although the lyrics aren’t quite as interesting as some other stuff I’ve heard in this glorious year of 2009, it’s still audible and clean.
A ten-track album, it lengths at about 40-min, and in my opinion, is rather short. Legends make it to the mark of about an hour, which I personally think an album should always aim for. And I know I’m very hard to please when it comes to length, whether a song’s too long, or too short, too simple, or too chaotic. It’s all a matter of balance and context, balance and context.
“… Tappa, tappa, tappa…”
If an album’s too short, you find yourself hanging on the ends of songs wanting more, or conversely, wondering why it’s even their to begin with. Some albums have minute-long intervals, tracks that are strangely placed, strangely strung, and uncannily lacking in taste. Whilst others will have long, out-done, lengthy tracks in the middle, or the end, that try to build some pace, or crescendo, or whatever. A true band should be able to tackle all these issues, make their music fit into each other like pieces in a puzzle, maintain listener-interest, and the likes.
It’s a bloody helluva-lot-of stuff to juggle, I know, and some muso’s get it, other’s think that music’s just a way of copping out of a real job. It’s music, it’s writing, it’s art – all these things make the world go round, people. Without this kind of stuff, the world’s got no soul.
Instead, “Great Surround” has me wondering whether or not it wants to be one thing or the other. Instrumental, acoustic, rock, avant-garde, pop, electronica. Perhaps this is the aim of the album, some songs are nostalgic, others are futuristic-time-warp to the year 2012 [not a big leap]! And hey, this could be a new genre, but I doubt it. What do you get when you take the first letter from each one of those separate-genres: IARAE
[The Enantiomorphic God holds his head down in shame…]
It’s not to say that I don’t like the album, but it’s not desirable, there’s little replay value, and it’s hard to get attached. It’s like eating vegetables because their healthy, hell, you mightn’t like them, but you do it anyway. That’s what I feel like when I find a second-rate band. I listen, for the cause, but I dispose of just as quickly.
Let’s start off with the first track “Evergreen”, shall we? We’ve got building synth and violin here, a pop-like beat comes in, with the lyrics “… as the last of the lights went out, I drove out of the city…” with some piano. It’s a bizarre mix. Out rolls the snare, the violin comes back, the beat dumbs-down a little, the lyrics repeat. It’s simplistic, but it’s not elegant. The heavy kicks in, the electric synth comes back a little louder, the elec. guitar comes in, some bass appears. Damn, the list is endless.
There’s layers, and then there’s a pile of convoluted muck. It’s like, like:
“A fried-egg, chilli-chutney sandwhich…”
All the ingredients just don’t work, the bread sogs, the egg is delightfully unhealthy, and the chilli’s going to burn that ass of yours in the end. But, put it all together, and somehow, they manage to pull of a track that I generally like. I’m sounding critical, but to be honest, it’s probably the favourite of the album. It has to be heard, to be fully appreciated. And the way I write it, it doesn’t sound appealing.
But go out there, listen, try it, you might like it…
“Islands Of Fortune” rolls in, percussion, bass, electric. There’s a really good riff going here, a sense of isolation. The vocals here bring it all together. And what the first track had an abundance of, the second makes up for with uncanny minimalism. Damn, peoples, if you put the first and the second track together, they sound totally different. One’s got synth, the other has electric rock. If you made a person listen to one, and then the other, aside the vocals, the music is quite different.
“Eveningwear”, the fourth-track, brings that backwards-avant-garde into play, with some very nostalgic tunes here. It’s like walking into the middle of a 50’s horror flick or melodrama. The waver of violin, the noir-piano, the lack of voice. This is just an example of those 1-minute interval tracks that really piss me off. They’ve got little, if any, place on the album. Some are great, this is not. I’m going to draw your attention to the following track, “Vanishing Act”, which is like listening to ‘Aha’ [the creepy European one, with the track “Take On Me”, and the “oooohhhh ahhhhh” bit]. The guy does exactly the same thing ‘Aha’ did in “Take On Me”…
“And it keeps me uuuuuup… Ahhh… Ooooooooooooooh… Ahh [gasp] Ooooooooooooh.”
There was a reason some bands died out during the 80’s, and some people don’t quite realise why. I won’t explain, it’ll waste your time.“Vanishing Act” is really poorly titled, the lyrics “And it keeps me up” recur far too often, and if the phrase “vanishing act” appears, it’s minor and somewhat unheard. The song is really electric, there’s hardly any acoustic here at all.
“Torches” brings us on our knees, it’s the final song. We’re supposed to be all mushied-up with the album, by now. But I was half-asleep by this point. Piano, tambourine, etc. I couldn’t get my head around it. “Great Surround” has the fascade of being ‘epic’, it masks itself with this eclectic-surrealism. Bliss-rock/dream-pop never did quite make it as a successful genre, in my opinion. ‘The Fatales’ are still something I would watch out for, but this album is a fine example of the term average. It has it’s highs, it has its lows, and is a disappointing end to my reviews for the holiday-break…
… When it comes to a rating, I’m going to have to be cruel and rate it a 2. Haha, it rhymes!
The Enantiomorphic God [sits at his desk, the piles mounting, his hand sore and bleeding, shackled at the ankle, he now bids you Adieu!]