Fear of Men Early Fragments(Kanine Records) Buy it from Insound
I never got Morrissey’s shtick. It seems to me that boredom is one of those emotions that is almost impossible to telegraph successfully in a pop song. Now I know, there’s a legion of Smiths fans out there ready to call foul, but they aren’t writing this review. In my opinion, if you’re so bored, best keep it to yourself because the desire to communicate should really spring from an actual desire, the antithesis of not caring. Maybe someday, someone will explain to me how the Smiths thread this needle, but for now I’m not buying. That’s why I don’t really appreciate Jess Weiss’ phoned-in vocal performance on Early Fragments. I get the dilemma, I really do. But I think you somehow need to sound bored in a compelling way, not just ready for sleep, as she does on much of this collection.
On the other hand, the songs ain’t half bad. There’s kind of an early Cranberries hauntedness to the arpeggio-ed guitars and tumbling tom toms, not to mention a hookiness to the melodies that belies the existential angst. Speaking of which, much has been made of the band’s high minded muses (apparently Sartre, Plath, Benjamin, etc). I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’m not doing any homework before writing a goddamned record review. Sure, I’ve read some Freud and Benjamin, so I’m no ignoramus, but I don’t know what all these people are talking about. It’s one thing if I hear something in a song that makes me ask some questions or explore a reference dropped, but first, I’m not doing any frigging research beforehand, and second and most importantly, I can barely make out any of the reverb soaked words on this record, so how am I supposed to be inspired to look further? I just take this stuff as it comes and what I hear is basically a mildly enjoyable set of songs, whose lackadaisical delivery and spacey major second chords could easily accompany my Sunday afternoon nap. Even the songs like Born, which chug-a-lug pretty well, are so saturated in a large hall sound that they promise not to disturb my reverie. Perhaps the best songs of the lot are the closers Ritual Confession andSpirit House, which get the most Weiss is willing or able to give, but a song title like Doldrums, and its tossed-off delivery, says it all.
I guess this band is getting some attention in the UK, which is not surprising considering the reverence with which you guys regard The Smiths, but all I can see from across the pond is a whole bunch of potential, which a decent dose of commitment and passion could easily shake loose. Let the hating begin.25 March, 2013 - 14:57 — Alan Shulman