REVIEW: The Fruit Bats: Mouthfuls
The Fruit Bats: Mouthfuls [Subpop, 2003] (mp3s)
Three words? alive with possibilities
The "style versus substance" argument in music has plagued mankind for generations. As much as we would like to think that we are concerned with the matter of artistic expression, there is a part of us that is hopelessly consumed by bells and whistles. For this we should make no apologies, but it seems unlikely that we will ever find a happy medium between these two poles. Sonic Youth will never adopt the smarmy pseudo-lesbian antics of T.A.T.U. Les Savy Fav will never write a heartwarming, Mellancampish ode to bygone Americana. ...And You will Know us By the Trail of Dead will never, ever, be on the soundtrack to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
Weighing in on the "substance" side is the Fruit Bats' second album, Mouthfuls.
Much of the songs on Mouthfuls are likable but boring. "Rainbow Sign," "A Bit of Wind," and "Union Blanket" play pleasantly in the background, with their gentle pace evoking images of slow motion leaf-raking and, err, cartwheels. Without tempo changes, melodic surprises or engaging lyrics, attentively listening to these songs has a hypnotic effect.
But when the Fruit Bats add some colour and depth, the true possibilities of Mouthfuls shines through. The Shuggie Otis-schooled-Zombie-marching-band-scoring-a-silent-film "Track Rabbits" [Wow! --Ed.], the piano-driven bar-room ballad "Lazy Eye," the Beach Boys-esque "Magic Hour" and the oddly romantic "Seaweed" are the smattering of highlights that make this record worth your precious time. Producer Brian Deck is surely to thank for some of the album's more exceptional moments, applying the same ghostly air to Mouthfuls as he did to Modest Mouse's peerless The Moon and Antarctica.
Mouthfuls has no horrendously bad songs, but you will likely find yourself skipping the slower tracks after some repeated listening. Nonetheless, you will also find yourself singing along and listening to certain songs over and over again. And over again. [In a Zombie voice? Or just normally? Whatever happened to Shuggie Otis? Did he become Shaggy? Has anyone seen my glasses? --Ed.]