Fops, a duo comprised of Thee More Shallows’ Dee Kesler and Chadwick Donald Bidwell of Ral Partha Vogelbacher, have spawned a side project surpassing its creator’s home base output. Perhaps the prejudice that greets side projects plays a little into the album’s appeal; in principle, so little is to be expected from them. Even so, when artists step away from their main source of output and toward something else, it sometimes allows them to shear away their previous band’s excesses. With Yeth Yeth Yeth, Kesler and Bidwell have dropped their more expendable indie pop quirks and have arrived at a more enjoyable end.
The Krautrock leanings the duo has assumed for Yeth Yeth Yeth may or may not have something to do with this. Much has been made of this influence and, although it’s clear from the opening strains of “Yellow Jacket Corpse” that Kesler and Bidwell are fans of the motorik beat, the album’s leanings are predominantly indie. Kesler’s vocals, largely emotionless and a tad whiney, come from no other place than the indie rock school of singing.
For every heavy, synthy track, there is a cozy indie gem waiting right around the corner. “Yellow Jacket Corpse”, with its aforementioned motorik beat and overall feeling of dread, leads into “Black Boar”, which holds claim to a synth line so goofy, the listener can’t help but grin. This, as well as “Solid Copper Huntress”—another pop gem—serve as Yeth Yeth Yeth‘s highlights. Both songs, under three minutes, pack just the right amount of indie fuzziness and lyrical inscrutability to resist overstaying their welcome.
Even Krautier songs, such as “Glass Blower” with its references to the autobahn, are boiled down to a pithy three and a half minutes. This pop approach to a heavier genre of music works similar wonders in “Maple Mountain”, which dresses an ‘80’s pop guitar riff with some Krautrock atmospherics, coming away with excellent results.
Yeth Yeth Yeth‘s lyrics are meant to concern a single protagonist, although what situation we encounter him in is unclear. The album’s second part, Priests in Them Caves is set for release early next year. Perhaps the lyrical incomprehension is a boon in this instance, as we are left with little cliff hangers. Again, the lyrical oddness is more rooted in indie than Krautrock, as are most of the album’s other faults. As with Thee More Shallows and Ral Partha Vogelbacher’s back catalog, there are more than a few bursts of generic indie-ness on Yeth Yeth Yeth. Yet, the effort to evolve out of it is more apparent. Krautrock has had a small resurgence recently, and Fops, as well as a few other scattered groups, are staying ahead of the curve by appropriating its elements in subtle and unique ways.
While not faultless, Yeth Yeth Yeth is intriguing enough to pique curiosities for Fops’ next installment. At a mere 35 minutes in length, it’s also one of the more concise releases I’ve heard this year. Fops may have a ways to go before they make Kraut-indie the next big thing, but with Yeth Yeth Yeth, they are certainly on their way.