The Fruit Bats have been around for a decade or so now, releasing great, Elephant 6 Collective-influenced, quirky pop — without doubt one of the better unsung bands of this millenium (all 12 years of it). There’s a definite Beatles influence permeating much of their music, but on their most recent release, August 2011’s Tripper, they headed in a different direction. And when I say “they,” I actually mean Eric Johnson, who in many ways IS the band — the rest of the band lineup changes on a regular basis, all of it revolving around Johnson. And on Tripper, Fruit Bats sounds more like a Johnson solo album than any of the other Fruit Bats albums did. I guess that’s in large part due to the fact that a lot of it is more acoustic and sparse, so it comes off as a sound one musician guy easily have layered together in his basement studio, a la Paul McCartney’s solo debut, McCartney.
In any case, it’s a quiet, laid-back album that, in opposition to my McCartney reference above, sometimes sounds quite John Lennon-esque, particularly on the lead track, “Tony the Tripper.” But that’s just in a general “feel” sort of way — Johnson’s vocal is pure Dan Behar (of the New Pornographers, and Destroyer), to the point that I had to double-check that Behar wasn’t singing guest vocals on the song. There’s also an element of solo Pete Townshend on the song, in the strummy guitar sound and echo-y electric guitar flashes. But that’s all a pretty weighty group of comparisons to labor under, when in fact the song is light, beautiful, and epic all at once, in a way that is all Fruit Bats. Of course, your ears will be the final judge, and with lyrics like this:
Back at the burnout chalet
with some brokedown punks and some zeroes
Defending his can of beans
Get these weasels away for chrissakes get these snakes off of me
you won’t be left without anything to think about either. Johnson is as literate as he is musical, an excellent songwriter still in his prime.
More Fruit Bats to come on Reselect in time — figured it was best to start with this while it still meets my (admittedly oft-broken) New Music Monday requirements…