Monday, August 9, 2010

Fair To Midland-Fables From A Mayfly:What I Tell You Three Times is True

Trips to the Friends of the library sale downtown usually don’t reveal much. Other than classic literature (I.e. Dickens, Byron, etc.), most of the books tend to be pulp fiction, New Age conspiracy theory texts, and great novels like Fat White Vampire Blues (I kid you not. That is a real book. It was featured.) The music section is similarly deficient. Some old show tunes records, tapes of generica, and Cds of unsuccessful country artists is what generally shows up, and nothing new ever comes in. I should retract that statement-occasionally something new comes in. While combing through the Cds one more time, I found the oddly titles Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True by the equally oddly names Fair to Midland. I was intrigued by the fairy-tale influenced album art and the title (The second part of it comes from a Lewis Carroll poem.), and since it was a dollar, which is less than what you pay for “Crazy Train” on iTunes, I picked it up. It was worth the dollar.
Fair to Midland’s sound can best be described as a blend of indie rock and heavy metal. The band is signed on to Serjical Strike records, which was started by the singer from System of a Down, probably the most spastic metal band either. Most of the songs feature the sort of headbanging choruses found in heavy metal bands. The oddly named Darroh Sudderth’s vocals are high-pitched and quavering, like an indie singer, and he sounds similar to Falling Up’s lead vocalist, with occasional reminiscences of Edison Glass and Michael Stipe from R.E.M. Sudderth has a greater range than all the above, as he can go from piercing high pitched singing, to a low-pitched growling. Unfortunately, the only song he showcases his range and screaming on is Dance of The Manatees, the opening track, and most of the other tracks have him staying in his higher range, which I assume is his comfort zone. The guitars have an indie vibe to them and the keyboards add some scope to the record. The only musical problem with this record is the corny synthesizer sound that occasionally shows up, as in “April Fools and Eggmen.” It sounds like it was taken from some really cheesy 80s record.
The record starts out with a bang with “Dance of The Manatees”, the band’s swan song. It has sort of a radio single feel, and features the only example of Sudderth’s guttural growling. (He sounds like he’s saying “Run DMC” over and over again.”) The band kicks off into “Kyla Cries Cologne“, another rock anthem, and then into the dark brooding “Vice/Versa”, which alternates from indie flavoured verses to modern rock choruses. “The Wife, the Kids, and the White Picket Fence” provides the major key song for the album, and then we have another rock anthem, “April Fools and Eggmen”. This segues into a sort of classical interlude, which is interrupted by the fierce opener of “A Seafarer’s Knot”, whose intro is the most metallic this record. The song’s tune almost has an Irish feel, kind of like “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald”. After this, the album suffers from what almost every harder rock record suffers from-lag. The last half of almost all hard rock records I have listened to has felt boring and sluggish. The band throws in an Irish fiddle intro on “Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes”, but by that time, I’ve fallen asleep. The energy can only go so far, and after about six or seven minor key songs with slower choruses (The fancy term for this is soaring choruses), I’ve lost interest. I guess I’m not cut out to be a metalhead. The final song, “(When The Bough Breaks) Say When”, is lighter than most of the songs, and also partially major-key.
Fair To Midland’s song writing is some of the weirdest in the world, and the song titles make no sense at all. I won’t even try to analyze any of them. Some lyric lines, like “They left us in the dark. They buried the sun, so I carried a torch”, make some sort of sense, but others are purely indecipherable like “let me introduce you to a pair that strikes crude oil, but I see pyrite”. Then again, what do you expect from a band of System of a Down’s singer’s label.
Fair to Midland does an interesting job of blending indie vocals with metal music, but their singer’s vocal strength and range is not displayed on most of the tracks. I also can’t help shake the idea that this is an unchristian version of Falling Up (Disclaimer: Falling Up was around before Fair to Midland.). Fans of Falling Up and people looking for intelligent hard rock might enjoy it, and it’s definitely worth a dollar. If you like none of the music, the album art is still pretty cool. And here's the band with the singer rocking the banjo and the overalls. He doesn't play the banjo on the record, though, which is sad.

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