“I like all types of music… except country.”
God damn it. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard some ignorant little fool utter these oh-so-common words. Where is it that this group-think hate came from? Why do people defend the most vapid and uninspired house offerings before acknowledging the master works of Willy Nelson or Johnny Cash? A significant amount of what we love about modern music, especially rock, owes much to the country genre. Granted, I am just as annoyed as the next person by the latest Garth Brooks Single or the crooning of Clint Black, but that does not warrant the mass hatred propagated by the musically unintelligent. I just wanted to get that out of the way.
Enter this folk/country recording by Fruit Bats. Like most folk music, the core of this deal is simply a man with his guitar. The twang of the acoustic goes far for this genre when accompanied by “echo-y” drums and what some would consider experimental background production. However, no amount of production can mask the feel of a decent bar/coffee house act quickly tossed into a studio that this recording projects.
Despite this, the simplicity of the music is actually quite charming at first. The first track “Rainbow Signs” is upbeat and the production brings a catchy pop feel to the sound. This novelty continues onto the second track “A Bit of Wind.” Religious references on both tracks aside, the music is enjoyable and the quite decent harmonic vocals can conjure up memories of The Beach Boys or even John Lennon.
Soon after this point in the album the whole situation becomes clear. This album has the uncanny ability to get you into the mood for this type of music and then promptly get you out…every time. I am serious. I have started to listen to this album at least 10 times and every time I start it up I get excited. I think to myself, “Sweet, Fruit Bats”, but by the time the 4th or 5th track rolls around it is a strain to not just take the damn thing out of the player. The album slows down considerably, even for country/folk songs, around the 3rd track “Magic Hour.” This decent song is merely OK, as is the fourth “The Little Acorn,” yet in the heads of the listener the album is living off of borrowed credit from the momentum of the first two tracks.
The producers or musicians or whoever just seemed to have stopped trying at this point. The novel studio produced background is drastically reduced and the album goes on a much extended sluggish streak. The fact that the tunes are relaxing and the guitar playing quite good does not make up for the extremely repetitive music and vocals. My optimism spirals out of control into pessimism about this music and my patience all but goes out the window while I flirt dangerously with boredom. This music just seems to go nowhere. I would attempt to identify more individual cases of uninspired musicality here, but tracks 3 through 8 seriously blur into a hazy mush of country in my head. Perhaps the choices for the first two tracks were a mistake. Those tracks seem laced with energy and pop, something the next 6 tracks are completely without. Like a working man who blew his load too early, this album keeps jack hammering away with their one trick pony in an attempt to cover up its shortcomings. With all its flair and creativity gone, visions of fresh folk wonder have faded into stereotypical barn dances and cattle herding within my head.
Next let us ponder the absurdly stupid names assigned to this group and its songs. I feel a bit too critical in mentioning this, but it is too obvious not to. Fruit Bats? Where the hell does that come from and what does it have to do with anything? OK, let’s put the band name aside. Plenty of bands with ludicrous names have made some of the most amazing music out there.
When you start reading the track list with titles like “Rainbow Sign,” “Truck Rabbits,” and “The Little Acorn” you lose all willingness to forgive. These names must be a joke of some sort, some bad inside joke that only the band gets and that has been taken way too far. The ninth track “Seaweed” has some good female vocals that bring it some notoriety, yet my willingness to tolerate grows thin even here.
The final track “When U Love Somebody” marks the return of the studio production and pop, but this is far too little far too late. Even though it has some really solid parts, this album is really only worth a few tracks; it would have been a much stronger release as an EP.
Holopaw – Holopaw
Shins – Oh, Inverted World
Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle