I don’t ever remember librarians being able to rock like this. It’s been five years since Dave Fischoff released his last album as he landed a job at the Chicago Public Library, but, brother, was it worth the wait! Recorded in his basement apartment, The Crawl is more than just the cut and pasting of a lonely singer / songwriter. Instead, we find an incredibly intricate slice of baroque electro-pop that’s been compared to the likes of Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach and the Magnetic Fields, just to name a few. Fischoff deserves these comparisons and more with this album that seems to get better with every successive track.
The Crawl seizes your attention right away with “The World Gets Smaller When You Dream,” a song that begins with a bombastic and grandiose symphonic sound usually better suited for a coda rather than an intro. “Landscape Skin” pulsates with energy, alternating between machine gun beats, chamber pop organ, and breathy vocals that exemplify the innate sensuality of the song. “Rain, Rain, Gasoline” stands up to some of the better passionately dramatic songs from O.M.D. with ease.
Despite the fact that he is a decent enough vocalist, Fischoff’s standout tracks from The Crawl are his instrumentals. “In a Lightless Carriage” is the first of these, a short and charming piece with church bells that stay with you for days afterward. Fischoff’s vocal delivery can be compared with fellow indie superhero, Sufjan Stevens. There’s a hint of an endearing lisp and a slight husky hush, as if restraining the sheer power of his words. “In This Air” is the best song in which to hear this comparison.
The last five songs on The Crawl are actually the best, and well worth waiting for. “The Matrimony Vine,” the second instrumental track, is so packed with neoclassical romanticism that you are almost brought to tears. This is the kind of song that John Hughes would have paid through the teeth for when he was still making teenage romantic comedies. It’s as if the Thompson Twins, the Smiths and Vangelis all got together to write an alternate ending theme for Pretty in Pink. “The Suburbs of Eden” and its thumping bass track earned Fischoff several mentions of Public Enemy. It’s not quite “Fight the Power,” but it does have some intro similarities that hearken back to It Takes a Nation of Millions.
The easiest comparisons for this album lie with the Postal Service, though Fischoff’s lyrics and baroque sensibilities set him apart as being a little more than just the tip of that bestselling iceberg. Take “Flip Books,” for instance. In the song, Fischoff sings about actually making these artistic toys, but makes them seem so much more. “I can draw a stem out of the land / till it billows into a summer tree. Or send it back down into the ground / and let it sulk in the husk of its seed.” You can see how it’s a little more descriptive and flowery than “I was the one worth leaving.” This is all not to mention the incredibly beautiful three and half minute intro, another example of his song-weaving prowess. The entire introduction could have been another instrumental track of its own.
The Crawl is one of those albums that delights you in a different way every time you listen to it. The title of the album itself reminds me of a saying (that other geeks besides myself will probably recognize), “When you can’t walk, you crawl, and when you can’t do that, you find someone to carry you.” I will be carrying The Crawl around with me for a good long while, I’m sure.
The Postal Service – Give Up
Magnetic Fields – Holiday
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Etiquette