Here’s a game you and your friends can play with Fruit Bats’ new album Tripper: run through the alphabet from A to Z and come up with a genre that you can discern on said album that begins with the corresponding letter. For instance, A is for Ambient, B is for Bluegrass, C is for classical, etc. While in theory, the sheer ambition of it all sounds like it could be a horrendous, sprawling, Sandinista!-esque mess, main Fruit Bat Eric Johnson manages to pull it off while maintaining a cohesive voice.
Let us begin with Mr. Johnson’s vocals. Imagine the vocal baby of Geddy Lee and Yes’ Jon Anderson, and you have a decent understanding of it. His voice has an odd soulfulness to it, which lends itself fittingly to such folk-rock/Motown songs like “Tangie and Ray” and “Heart Like An Orange.” And Motown isn’t the only soulful reference point for these songs. Take for example on of my favorite tracks, “You’re Too Weird,” which most closely resembles Prince reworking The Kinks’ “Lola.” “The Banishment Song” also reminded me a lot of the Minnesota one-man powerhouse, though with a Sam Beam-like opening.
The only downside to Tripper, is “The Fen,” an ambient instrumental that seems like an afterthought more than anything. I can understand including instrumental fare on an album ala The Beach Boys or Black Sabbath, but in its setting here, this song didn’t come together fully for me, and I would categorize it, as pleasant as it is, as filler.
All in all, Tripper is a very good album and another entry showing that Eric Johnson can take disparate sounds and create a sound all his own. And as much as this album is a bit of a departure from the previous Fruit Bats albums, it’s another fitting addition to the Fruit Bats catalog.
Stream: Fruit Bats – “Tangie and Ray”