Sunday, July 4, 2010

CD Review: FANFARLO - RESERVOIR (Warner Music)

England’s Fanfarlo are an indie pop group who rode a bracing wave of online journalistic hyperbole late last year following a glowing David Letterman appearance and the release of this, their début album. As is the way with bands and hype like this, the Australian release and tour comes as almost an afterthought but this is an album with much to be fond of.

Written as a live band and perfunctorily produced by 2009’s producer du jour Peter Katis, Reservoir is an album that a lot of people would like, but few will hear. Reasons for this are writ large throughout the album, as it ticks so many boxes of what is ‘quality indie’ since Arcade Fire tore up the rulebook. Baring little resemblance to the ebullient twee that coloured earlier EPs and their contribution to 2006’s landmark Kids At The Club indie pop compilation album, Fanfarlo have grown in a way that many of their contemporaries on that album would never have considered and would likely have viewed as very…American.

In short, this is exactly the sort of album that would be made if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got Beirut to do some arrangements for them and told Peter Katis to do whatever he did on Funeral. This is both great, because Fanfarlo are smart songwriters and you could do far worse than those touchstones, but it does feel as if the band’s personalities were lost somewhere over the Atlantic.

Despite the ready references, there are some top tunes herein. Fire Escape is a gloriously wrought mix of Farfisa, synth arpeggios, acoustic guitar and exuberant horns all brought to a rolling boil by vocalist and ringleader Simon Balthazar. Ghosts (unsurprisingly already used in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) makes Beirut sound more fun than he’s ever had appropriating, and Drowning Men should satiate Arcade Fire fans until the release (and perhaps following the release) of The Suburbs. While there is nothing earthshaking about this modest addition to the year’s impressive array of indie albums, it’s not entirely without appeal and worth investing in for those who want to get something familiar yet different onto a mixtape, or to hear what a British indie pop group sounds like when made over by one of the most lauded producers. With an Australian tour in August, those who hear Reservoir will likely be convinced to check them out, or at least bide time with Fanfarlo till the real thing comes along.

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