Wednesday, December 12, 2007

moremoremore reviews

Here are some more updates. I don't know if I've said this before, but copying and pasting all these reviews is pretty much for my own sake to have everything in one spot online before sites change around and things fade away and a little scrap book or something... with that said, here are some more words.

Boat, “Awesome,” Fishboy, Eux Autres
(Comet) Since our pages have already poured praise upon local headliners “Awesome” and Boat, this brief recommendation is better served touting a memorable out-of-towner opening the bill. Fishboy the band is named after Fishboy the lead singer, a bespectacled dweeb-rocker from Denton, Texas, who currently writes and performs some of the most smile-worthy pop this side of They Might Be Giants. The 25-year-old draws epic-length comic-book fliers for concerts and four-tracks songs about anthropomorphic Christmas trees and Teddy Ruxpin, but lest you think this Fish is too much “boy,” he’s gotten help from members of Okkervil River and the Baptist Generals on his albums for a reason. Fishboy comes to Seattle on the strength of his latest record, Albatross, and he’s bringing a frenzy of horns, guitars, and giggle-worthy songs in his lunchbox. THE STRANGER

There are smart-aleck rock bands, and then there is
Fishboy - which is a smart smart-aleck rock band.

The Denton quartet has just released what may be the world’s shortest rock opera with the longest title - the 33-minute Albatross: How We Failed to Save the Lone Star State With the Power of Rock and Roll. Leader Eric Michener has described it as a concept album about riding shotgun in a tour bus with the ghost of Buddy Holly in an attempt to discover the song that will save Texas. But the key to any concept album is whether it holds up on shuffle play, and Albatross stands as one of the finest rock albums to come out of Texas this year, loaded with loud guitars, catchy melodies, and fun verses like “I’m so broke, it makes me sick/ I use cut-up credit cards for guitar picks.”

At their quirkiest, Fishboy resembles “Don’t Let’s Start”-era They Might Be Giants. But Michener and his bandmates add a ragged garage-band energy that makes the songs work beyond their clever lyrics. “Minus Two” may have been conceived as a setup for Michener’s wacky opera plotline, but it’s also a passionate anthem about literally being born to play music. And love songs set in fast-food restaurants have never been as bouncy or endearing as the rollicking “Taqueria Girl.” KERA.ORG

Liz originally fell in love with Fishboy when she saw them earlier this year at the Athens Popfest. Since then, they’ve released one of her favorite albums of the year (Albatross: How We Failed To Save The Lone Star State With The Power Of Rock And Roll) that chronicles our hero’s fight to save Texas with music and shenanigans. During the course of this indie-popera they encounter “Proper Name Spelling Bees” and taqueria stands. How could you know be compelled to follow them around as they tour the Pacific Northwest? KEXP BLOG

f nothing else, I’ve learned two things as an English major. First, always follow the “show don’t tell” model — rather than writing abstract, existential prose about a suburban kid, rebelling against his white-collar parents, sit said private schooler down in his room listening to Clipse and UGK on his oversized headphones, with dreams of DJing and spitting 16 bars over the latest Timbaland beat. I’ve also learned that a lot of indie rockers were, at one time, English majors. The genre seems to be making an overarching, whole-hearted effort to trend toward writing personalized, affecting lyrics à la John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats fame).

Fishboy is no different. The group’s latest release, Albatross: How We Failed to Save the Lone Star State with The Power of Rock and Roll, is riddled with stories of fishermen lost at sea, grade school spelling bees, and criminal trials. A concept album about, “how [frontman, Eric Michener], the band, and the ghost of Buddy Holly attempt to save Texas by going on a tour/crime spree in order to perform all 8,030 of the songs [he’s] written in [his] sleep since [he] was in the womb,” Albatross is ripe with stories for just such lyricism.

Outlandish concepts aside though, Albatross plays like a perfectly succinct and collected work. Few tracks run over three minutes, while all of them seem to coalesce together, creating more of a composed piece, broken into varying acts, rather than an album of wholly separated tracks. When “Blackout/Flashback” gels seamlessly into the distorted intro of “Half Time at the Proper Name Spelling Bee” — a track that sounds incredibly reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, as Michener’s voice embodies the same searing, nasally quality Jeff Magnum became known for — the concept aspect of the album seems fully realized.

And yet the most disappointing aspect of this disc is that those showing-not-telling lyrics seem to fall flat in the exact moments when they’re supposed to be most powerful. When Michener sings, “I’m so broke it makes me sick/ I use cut-up credit cards for guitar picks” on “Taqueria Girl,” his jovial croons make it impossible to believe he’s truly upset about where his life is. Similar blunders appear on the aforementioned “Half Time at the Proper Name Spelling Bee” (“At the proper name spelling bee everyone loses”) and “Thought Balloon” (“When the trial/ Started Monday I decided/ To represent myself/ They called it on TV / The trial of the century”).

Though maybe it’s the album’s concept that pigeonholes these lines into abstraction and banality. Michener obviously has the chops to write alongside the likes of Darnielle and others, yet something about Albatross seems slightly off-kilter. As Mountain Goats’ tracks seem true to life, Fishboy’s distended concept occasionally forces the lyrics/album into the realm of the surreal, a place they are wholly unprepared to arrive. In any case, it’s clear that Fishboy fits squarely into the indie rock cannon. They just need to stop trying to save the Lone Star state and focus a bit more in the studio or in their rooms listening to UGK or wherever they happen to write.


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