Thursday, September 3, 2009

review: fun. Aim and Ignite

Aim and Ignite
Nettwerk Records, 2009

I'm fascinated with the merger of the punk and the indie, and the very few instances that it happens. In this case, take uber-happy uber-smart pop-punk specialist The Format and mix with the ultimate indie ideal, Anathallo and what pops out is fun. As in the band. But fun, too. (First, how is this band name not already taken? Seems like it should have been.)

Fun. is the exuberant experience of combining Andrew Dost's (formerly of Anathallo) organic percussive sensibilities with Nate Ruess' (formerly of The Format) incredible knack for snappy pop music and sarcastic insights. The opener "Be Calm" is incredible and I think it combines these really well. A mellow accordion intro gives way to violin lines amid Ruess' escalating falsetto in a Queen-esque turn towards the absurd as birds seemingly chirp in the background before delving into this cool slapdash stomp and stammer of the second verse and bridge before escalating into a trumpet-backed stately march. I never saw The Format, but I remember the craziness of Anathallo's early days where five members would be running from instrument to instrument and I can only imagine that was all at the orchestration of Dost. He has the heart for the grandiose, and Ruess has the mind for piercing wit.

As in the second song, "Benson Hedges," he asks 'Holy ghosts, when do you come out to play/ 'cause if the Lord is going to find me/He better start looking today" and then "what did you do today?/I should have spent the day cutting out my eyelids." This song took awhile to get me, but its merger of a crazy rolling piano and continually frantic guitar giving way into a punchy chorus reminded me of REO Speedwagon meeting Jerry Lee Lewis. It's no "Great Balls of Fire," no that song would be too simple for these ambitious geniuses, instead the snippets and tidbits of sound and instrument are stacked high and then higher. "Benson Hedges" I think has become my favorite, based on its ambition alone.

To keep merging bands, really this may be Max Bemis of Say Anything fronting The Arcade Fire. Unfortunately, the crutch for the band is the three-chord punk rock guitar, to somehow shake that off and enhance the flourishes would move fun. into a different realm of the "serious" indie rock, which would probably fun.

"All The Pretty Girls" is fun's own "Sweet Talking Woman." It yanks a page straight from ELO with its pop chorus and wide strokes of pop-prog. And is Fun trying to secretly make us all fans of Billy Joel? It sure seems that way, and surprisingly, I'm not offended. In fact, I rather enjoy it especially with "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used To Be)."

Aim and Ignite falters when it strays when it doesn't add enough bold and outrageousness to their work and instead drifts into children's ditties. Okay, maybe only one with "Walking The Dog" and "The Gambler" lacks an underhanded punch like the rest of the songs deliver. But pop this witty and smartly crafted--they really show the comedic flipside to what Sufjan and Andrew Bird are doing--hopefully enough catch on to realize that there are more similarities than differences between fun. and those acts. Because these guys deserve any and all attention that they get.


  1. I don't have anything insightful to add at the moment, but I do want to say that stumbling onto this site really has been a blessing music wise for me, especially now that I'm out of college and don't run into as many "cooler than me music hipsters." (I mean that as a compliment)

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