Entries in Lions (1)
Fall Classic had so much fun with their debut, Nerves, they’ve decided to return just a smidge beyond the calendar year for a wildly animalist follow up, Man/Other Beasts. Though released in April, I didn’t get my hands on Nerves until the apex of the fall season, and decidedly, wrote an overtly thematic review AS FOLLOWS. It came a bit of a surprise to me to receive a new album so soon, in that seasonal mindset, seemingly a tad early. Can you imagine if football season just decided to start mid-Summer, instead of waiting all the way until September?
People would lose their respective shit!
Man/Other Beasts deserves that kind of overwhelming pandemonium. What!? Another Fall Classic album? It’s too soon? Is it too soon? It’s been over a year? What about the sophomore slump? If they have the material, they should truck on, right? What more could one want from a young band. Take that honeymoon creativity…to the moon?
I think that’s what we have here.
The sexy, basking in the wilderness’ visceral glow, follow up to Nerves really builds off the kinetic energy of the Chicago quartets debut. Their sound seems whittled, concise and battle tested—sharp enough to kill. Schematically, the album breaks itself into it’s own double-edge sword, with each singer, Ryan Jeffrey and Andrew Fatato, taking half an album, with an outro to the albums self-proclaimed climax (“we’ll never survive on the fox’s share…”) thriving as the continental divide.
The divide works, as the singers have their own vibe and, of course, competing concurrent strengths, thinking well of Outkast’s Speakboxx/The Love Below’s dueling banjos. The first four songs feature Jeffrey’s kind of worldly sounding, raspy, sultry, vocals of cascading patience. Meanwhile tracks six through nine, feature Fatato’s more slicing with serrated sleekness crooning, in the vein of Blind Faith era Steve Winwood. His vocals are obviously not that high, but following the throaty ease of Jeffrey’s delivery, his songs tend to soar like they are pouncing their way out of the speakers, like salmon spawning downstream.
Much like its predecessor, Man/Other Beasts seems to stick with a theme and roll on through the safari. There is a palpable, animalistic rawness through all the songs, titles, themes and cover art that secludes the listening experience to a disclosed Fall Classic island. A portal you’re going to enjoy, because you’ve been transported away from all the trials and tribulations of modern life. Now, all you have to do is make some weapons for hunting, build a fire and construct shelter for the evening!?
This tone is set with the albums opening track, “Bones and Blood,” a song that harmonizes the self-aggrandizing image of cutting holes in the sun, while waxing the realist propaganda that we, as humans, are just bones and blood. It’s simple, but a prophetic tune that spins the flywheel enough to turnover the engine. At the very least, one finds their feet pattering against the wet sand pictured on the albums’ cover art. You might even be able to hear an Anthony Kiedis mirage caroling about how you don’t form in the wet sand, but he does. Man/Other Beasts sure as shit does. Well, It doesn’t matter, when you have a head that is half fox, half lion—the curtain on your deserted beach safari stage has risen, friends.
The first single, and wedged anchor of the album, “The Lion” is the quintessential Fall Classic song. It opens sardonically, with a jabbing, “don’t dig your spade in me/shake the hope that I will be your foundation” before wallowing, “…and I will let you down/dooooooooown/I will let you down.” It has a troubling drum line, like there is a trial in the wild, and there is rope and a fire—somebody is going to roast, tonight!? The patience of the song is the patent of Fall Classic. About three-and-a-half minutes into the song, the chanting, yet marketable, “we’ll never survive on the fox’s share” presents itself, repeats itself, trademarks itself and then crescendos climatically on the strength of Christopher Grandberry’s whirlwind percussion. One might find themselves reflecting on the incredible journey they just took. It then forays further into an outro to the song titled simply, “/” the albums pivot point, and there is a beautiful acapella sequence, harmonizing Jeffrey’s fox’s share hook, with an undisclosed female vocal and eventually a third and maybe fourth vocal sequence. It’s a majestic blend signaling intermission.
My favorite song on the album is the following song, “Firebreaks” as it’s echoing guitars strike a tone with me, as the beat swirls around me like feverish strobe lighting, and the chord progression thumps in threes with tribal confidence, like many songs on the White Stripes album Icky Thump. Pow-pow-pow…rest…pow-pow-pow. Throughout the vocals are cutting and soulful, delivering a clean melody with very relatable lyrics to any victim of unrequited love. I almost want to cry as Fatato repeats, whines, repeats, “she’s never not alone/never, never not alone/never not alone/” before howling, “I’m giving you up!!!!” I love that lyrical pairing of taking time and giving you up, together, to me, signifies a great ying-yang concept as they inherently call for different actions. That’s really the way my mind works when I’ve been vanquished by passion and unrequited love. There’s that internal struggle where you want to give it up, but then, you tell yourself to settle down, take time, give it some space, which makes you more and more frustrated. I feel like that all the time. I live my life with this internal struggle and this song hits this notion on the head. I mean Dear God…can she PLEASE BE ALONE!? Sigh. (I must disclaimer, if you’ve never read me before, I’m not saying at ALL this is what this song is ACTUALLY about, this is simply what I would use it for and how I have related to it. I think it’s obvious, but I feel I must say it for the small chance my articulations get lost in translation.)
If every good thing in marketing, in life, is a product of timing, for me, this album struck me right between the eyes. Sandwiched in a recent re-obsession with Fleet Foxes and a few stormy pre-Summer nights in NYC with Shearwater, the Earthy disposition of Man/Other Beasts has ground its foundation within my “anything but the concrete jungle right now” soul. When sweat seems like a non-stop problem, it’s nice to take a journey with a civilization that has less choices. Lions and foxes sweat but they don’t care. They eat, drink and fornicate. The Earth sweats itself all over, but hey, the Earth is just silly like that. Silly Earth. Stop sweating so much, you’re hurting people.
The spear cast in my heart from these Earthy jams was just wood, and sharpened, splintered wood. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Wood. And space, time and place, to throw wood.
Fall Classics’ second album “Man/Other Beasts” was released June 1st. If you read this and don't buy it a lion will eat you. Seriously.