Chicago's Fruitbats are sure to delight with their latest
release Spelled in Bones. The album's first track, "Lives
of Crime," is a starkly ironic critique of love and gender in
contemporary America. It's a lover's plea, commanding "don't
you grieve, don't cry, don't weep/Your tears are just the creak/on
which you float away from me/You gotta have the heart of a lion."
These commands gradually become more extreme. The girl eventually
is asked to stop breathing and stop looking.
At first one might take these lyrics literally. As if frontman Eric
D. Johnson really is demanding his lover to put away all emotions,
all senses and all choices for his sake. But a closer look reveals
the irony and dark comedy coloring much of this album. In "Lives
of Crime" the real criminal is the narrator himself; the one
with the "heart of a lion." . But still, we empathize with
him. After all, we too are "just a product of these times, and
must not atone for lives of crime."
The next track, "Silent Life," has a Decemberist
feel in its imagery and composition. A piano, squeezebox and melodies
tossing like waves move the seafaring voyage forward. To a "place
beyond the sticks and stones/past the piles of broken bones."
A place that "could melt a frozen heart/if it needs to be so."
"Silent Life" also has the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, recognizing
there's a "time to weather stormy seas/and suck the venom clear".
In essence, it's a song that heals through struggle and redeems through
The Bowie-infused melodies of "TV Waves" continue
the obscure lyrical imagery found on much of the album. Listeners
are taken "Out on the great green wash," where "there's
foam where spiders walk/ and ride the tides to take them home to empty
webs". Like "Silent Life", "Waves" finds
"peace in the belly of the beast," and "calm in the
valley of the dogs".
"Born In The 70s" mixes old-school country twangs w/ 70's
space rock. Doing so recreates memories, vivid and surreal, resulting
in perhaps the album's best track.
"Taking gulps of big blue sea
Of Georgia peach and Texas Tea
The sands of time stuck in your shoe
They make you cross/they make you blue
Whatever happened to you?
You were born in the 70s."
Spelled in Bones is a collection of poems rich in imagery
and rhythm. It is wise, mysterious and always adventurous. Surely
Fruitbats are up for the task of preserving Sub Pop's growing legacy
1. Lives of Crime
2. Silent Life
3. TV Waves
4. Canyon Girl
5. Born In The 70s
6. Legs Of Bees
7. The Earthquake Of '73
8. Traveler's Song
9. The Wind That Blew My Heart Away
10. Spelled In Bones
11. Every Day That We Wake Up It's A Beautiful Day
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