Before I begin I think it’s important to have full disclosure: I love The Fierce And The Dead! I think their live set in Glasgow last year was one of my fave gigs in a long time & consider their music to be wonderfully refreshing & uniquely vibrant. As such, if you are looking for a truly objective review of their latest album – “Spooky Action” – then you may be best served elsewhere.
“Spooky Action” is, from the opening moments of “Part 4” to the dying embers of “Chief”, an intense musical roller-coaster of an album … 41 minutes of sheer unadulterated exuberance and jump-up-and-down joy … which is very much in keeping with how I remember their live set.
I don’t want to get into any debate about whether or not the music on “Spooky Action” is progressive. Whilst it is to me and deliciously so, there may be some who would disagree. If you do have a problem with using the “progressive” label then may I suggest you too can look elsewhere because I think it is a fitting title for The Fierce And The Dead (TFATD).
I would go so far as to say their music is wonderfully progressive… it is an appropriate & effective descriptor for something they are: always experimenting, pushing the boundaries & trying new things. Theirs is an emphasis on timing … on soft & heavy … on quiet & loud … on intricate guitar riffs and full-on fuzzy bass … on percussion unites the sound … on ensuring no two track sounds the same … on wonder & surprise. If this isn’t progressive then nothing is.
TFATD bring timing to the fore on “Spooky Action”. They hold together so tightly that their sound has a distinct math-rock edge … a swirling, disorientating edge that is simply wonderful & provides ample differentiation between the band and their peers.
Tracks like opener – “Part 4” – simply blow me away … a disorientating guitar riff gives way to some heavy rocking melody & fuzzy bass with a “kapow” that Batman would be proud off.
The variety of sound is their greatest asset … jazzy guitar riffs, full-on walls of rock including very effective Napalm Death-esque crunch-outs, upfront and powerful bass, and lovely drumming … all work together perfectly. Throw in a deeeeeep saxophone and you’ll get a glimpse at “Spooky Action”.
In fact, track three – “Let’s Start A Cult” – with its deeeeeep saxophone is a prime example of all that is brilliant about this band. I can’t wait to hear that track played live.
It is this thought that I must, inevitably, turn: I want to hear this album performed live … because I think in a live setting will it truly come alive … like a thoroughbred horse let out of its confines and given the freedom to gallop on its own.
Are there any low points for me? Apart from the fact it’s over too soon, no … I don’t think so.
“Intermission 3” is a delightfully ’ambient’ piece in the middle of the album that may seem out-of-kilter to some … but not me, may I add. They also go a bit “Lullatone” with the ol’ glockenspiel and/or toy piano on “Spooky Action” which again may seem off-the-wall to some … but not me – I grin like an over-sugared & caffeinated chimp whenever I hear the track. Otherwise, it’s all good.
“Spooky Action” is everything I want in a progressive rock album: taught, muscular riffs; … intricate detail … an emphasis on timing and on melody … and a sense of wonder as I follow the lead of a band where anything is possible.
Whilst loathed to give a rating, I will give it 9 out of 10 … and will highly recommend “Spooky Action” to you.
Please Note: Lullatone are an excellent band who play their own unique version of child-friendly twee pop. I would highly recommend them too and would want anyone to think I was slagging them off.