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Brit Street Kids, Scot Indie Nerds
Scratch your itch with Family Fodder or Belle and Sebastian
With all the excessive retro revivalism of recent memory, this writer is somewhat baffled by the fact that the British outfit Family Fodder, which began in the late-’70s post-punk era, still remains obscure. Alig Fodder is the group’s sole consistent member, and the band played like fearless children in the middle of the street, at the intersection of pop music and avant-garde sound-love. They rubbed elbows with similarly off-center groups like Flying Lizards and This Heat, and their music seems like the result of having to negotiate a million different intense tastes; rather than diluting the end output, this only seemed to magnify the proceedings and make them sound more unique. In a better world, they’d be enjoying number one hits, and if their animated, irresistible and somewhat nuts 1980 track “Savoir Faire” does nothing for you, then sorry, I can’t help you.
Family Fodder’s latest album, Variety, is a mid-fidelity recording that accompanies a series of online films, and it features vocalist Darlini Singh-Kaul, who is actually the daughter of original Family Fodder singer Dominique Levillain. The opener “Déjà Déjà Vu” sports an irrepressible momentum and quotes from an earlier song “Heartbeats” while channeling the kinetic energy of some of the group’s best numbers. There’s a pervasive Jamaican dub influence, heard on several tracks like “The Pain Won’t Go” and “Vampyre on My Mind,” featuring whispered spoken vocals, disorienting squeaks and synthetics and a reggae pulse—this writer goes back and forth between loving this song and thinking it’s completely ridiculous. The instrumental “Blue Puppies” suggests the mystery of a detective skulking about, with thumb piano textures, and “It’s 1965” is a cheeky dose of glam and psychedelic rock with indulgent guitar wailing. The percussion and accordion-enhanced “Sitting in a Puddle” is a highlight, with a restless attitude, and other moments transport the listener to some bizarro-world outdoor European café. It’s not a perfect album, but for Family Fodder fans, it scratches an itch no one else can.
Belle and Sebastian
The Third Eye Centre
Once upon a time, the literate Scottish pop band Belle and Sebastian had perfected the EP as a recording format, with stand-alone 3-song or 4-song releases; these were appropriately sequenced with sensible song arcs, among them the career highlights Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light. As a sort of follow-up to the 2005 EP compilation Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, the new 1-CD, 2-LP collection The Third Eye Centre gathers b-sides and miscellanea from the past decade. Honestly, it’s a bit of a lovely mess—the song sequences of the compiled EPs have been jumbled, and obsessive fans will be quick to note that it doesn’t include every non-album track since 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
In its first several years, Belle and Sebastian had been pigeonholed as music for rimmed-glasses-wearing, bookish, shy, camera-toting youngsters, but nevertheless, the band’s attention to song craft was remarkable; in the last decade, the group—perhaps feeling wanderlust or experiencing a fit of non-complacency—began to offer more diversions and experiments. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the fan-favorite soul-disco number “Your Cover’s Blown,” presented here in a dance-enhanced remix by Miaoux Miaoux, which transforms itself multiple times over its six-minute duration.
Globe-trotting selections include the samba-infused “Love on the March,” the Jamaican influenced “The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House,” an Afro-pop version of “I’m a Cuckoo” remixed by The Avalanches, the faux-spy-soundtrack instrumental “Passion Fruit,” and even a honky tonk number, “Stop, Look and Listen.” Crammed with oddities, The Third Eye Centre offers convenience for non-completists, and while the tracks here aren’t allowed to breathe in their own spaces in a less cluttered release format, song-for-song, this writer finds the collection more charming and satisfying than the last proper album, Write About Love.