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Album Review

by Fruit Bats

Sub Pop

Review Date
20th September
Reviewed by
Matthew Cattin

From the urgency of the first train-track strums of 'Tony The Tripper', you know you are embarking on a sonic journey through unchartered Southern lands. It tells of living life recklessly with “some brokedown punks and some zeroes”, living life for now, being alive in a moment “knowing the world might end tomorrow anyway.” The track is interestingly layered with instrumentation akin to echoes of another time; scratchy piano jingles and distant synth resonating like a gramophone. So begins, Fruit Bats' fifth album Tripper.

Follow up track 'So Long' transports you to a totally new destination with its heavenly harp and xylophone combination creating an almost Disney sounding atmosphere. You feel as though the train you boarded in 'Tony The Tripper' has taken on a new route through an underwater paradise where the scenery goes by in graceful slow motion. Lead singer Eric D. Johnson’s bright voice slides with ease from tenor to falsetto yelping “she should dance if she wants to dance.”

First single 'Tangie and Ray' resumes Johnson’s road tripping storytelling in a catchy sing-along that could easily fit somewhere on MGMT’s back catalogue. 'Tangie and Ray' are two road-worn travellers who get literally swallowed up by the surrounding nature as they attempt to voyage through it. “Now they’re one with the dirt with the mouldering bones and litter leaves” croons Johnson in his nasal screech. 'The Fen', an instrumental spacey passage coming in just short of two minutes preludes the final tracks of the album, wild honey and picture of a bird. The latter is a bit closer to the traditional Fruit Bats sound, going back to their acoustic folk roots.

Johnson’s time spent with The Shins has undoubtedly left an impression on his song writing but whether it works or not is debatable. Tripper is a definitely a step forward for Fruit Bats seeing them branch out and experiment with ambient layers to enhance the mood of their music. The additional branches however are only skin deep and the bands roots are still clearly penetrating their sound. This mixture of old and new creates a confusing vibe at times where some songs simply become distracted by the general noise created. I predict the future will see Johnson choosing entirely new ground to plant his next musical seeds.


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