Monday, December 21st, 2009
Being On Our Own
Review of Fruit Bats’ The Ruminant Band
Annie BeedyThe last time Seattle’s Fruit Bats visited was way back in 2005, opening up for Son Volt at the Opera House and in support of their album Spelled In Bones. At the time, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the album and show not for what they were, but what they weren’t – namely their previous effort Mouthfuls and the cozy little show at the long-defunct B-Side in 2003.
And as I stated at the time, it was mainly the departure of vocalist Gillian Lisee from the Fruit Bats lineup that I had trouble with, having been such a fan of the way she and main Bat-man Eric Johnson’s parts played off one another on that earlier record. Objectively speaking, Johnson and the new Fruit Bats lineup did just fine on their own in crafting winning and winsome folk-pop – perhaps even better, with a less sleepy and more dynamic sound – but at the time I was having none of it and subsequently paid little attention to them over the next few years. Which worked out well, as the Fruit Bats went on a hiatus of sorts shortly thereafter with Johnson bringing home paycheques as a member of The Shins. And though James Mercer has cleaned house somewhat since The Shins’ last record, at last check Johnson was not only still a member, but Fruit Bats bassist Ron Lewis had also been recruited as a Shin.
Fruit Bats has continued as an ongoing proposition, however, and this past Summer they returned with a new album in The Ruminant Band. And with the benefit of a few years perspective, it’s easier to appreciate what Johnson has done since Mouthfuls – the new record is another terrific collection of feel-good, classically-styled pop that goes down real easy. Those who like some bitter with their sweet would be well advised to look elsewhere, because angst and melancholy aren’t part of the Fruit Bats recipe – just head-nodding, toe-tapping and melody to spare. Not to say that some female harmonies wouldn’t be the perfect compliment at a few points, but that’s neither here nor there.
And Fruit Bats will be here for the first time since that Opera House show with Son Volt – they’ll be at The Horseshoe on March 24, tickets $10. Usually doctor’s orders are to hole up for at least a week post-SxSW to handle the breakfast taco withdrawal, but here an exception might be in order.
While the new Shins record has no more precise target than sometime in 2010, James Mercer’s side-project with the ubiquitous Dangermouse – Broken Bells – is much more real. The album isn’t out till March 8 but the duo are giving away an MP3 of “The High Road” for one day only – today – in exchange for your email address. Head over to their website to submit and receive. There’s more details on the project at Exclaim.
Paste checks in with The Long Winters’ John Roderick about an upcoming collaboration with Kathleen Edwards, which should see the light of day after the next Long Winters album is completed. Which can’t be soon enough.
Penny Black interviews Trespassers William, who also recently recorded a video session with Off The Beaten Tracks, featuring a couple of songs from Trespassers William side projects but performed by both principals of Trespassers William. Which sort of makes them covers but not. Trespassers William are recording a new album this year.
Exclaim reports that the Flaming Lips cover album of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon will have the excessive but factually accurate title of The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing the Dark Side of the Moon. It will be released digitally only – tomorrow on iTunes and next Tuesday at other online retailers. Pitchfork talks to Wayne Coyne and his nephew Dennis (of the titular Star Death and The White Dwarfs) about their decision to remake the classic rock staple. NPR also has an interview with The Flaming Lips frontman about their other “proper” album, Embryonic.