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Fonda

Sell Your Memories

(Minty Fresh; US: 5 Feb 2013; UK: 18 Feb 2013)

The Los Angeles-based Fonda are best known for the theme song for the original Spy Kids film. Are “Radio Disney favorite” and “indie pop band” mutually exclusive terms? Not necessarily. Since the late ‘90s, the duo of screenwriter Emily Cook and music editor David Klotz have been releasing records at an intermittent rate on independent labels. Sell Your Memories is their first album in a decade, the pair having taken time off to do the whole family/growing up thing.


Despite the time gap, Fonda’s music has not changed much. Their sound is usually described as “dream pop” or “shoegaze”, terms that seem almost like catch-alls these days. Really, the shimmering, rather chipper surface of Sell Your Memories has more in common with first generation, female-fronted alternative bands such as the Darling Buds and the Heart Throbs, with a bit of 21st century twee-pop as well. The songs rarely cut beneath that surface, but then you get the idea they were not meant to.


Sell Your Memories sounds so reminiscent of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s that it’s something of a shock to find it wasn’t produced by an icon of that era such as Hugh Jones or Stephen Street. It’s clean, bold, and assertive in a way that is refreshing. Fonda are experienced enough to know that you don’t always need to sound opaque and fuzzy in order to assert your intelligence. What you hear the first time is pretty much what you get, and if it’s not to your liking, you’re free to move on. Outward markers of shoegaze are immediate. You have the surging yet simple two or three-chord arrangements, the overzealous drumming and shuffling rhythms, the effects pedals. Cook’s detached yet pleasant crooning even features an authentic British accent. But lest you get pictures of Slowdive and Lush in your head, Fonda never manage to work up the cathartic rush of those bands’ best work. Again, for better or worse, there’s nothing beneath the surface.


“Seeing Stars” sounds exactly like you would expect a song called “Seeing Stars” played by a summery dreampop band would. Ditto “Summer’s Gone”. But, while the former starts the album off with a confident, melodic burst, the latter just spins off into space. “You And I” is as twee as can be, while Klotz lends his sheepish, boyish vocals to workable ballads “She Is Real” and “You Make My Life So Extraordinary”. Sell Your Memories works best when it finds a middle ground between “pop” and “dream”, as on the brisk, punchy “You’ve Got A Life of Your Own” and cascading “A Million Dreams From Here”.


All in all, Sell Your Memories is a tidy little package. Ten songs, 40 minutes, no filler. It’s has plenty of melody, a bit of mood to it, and is easy on the ears. It lives up to its own modest expectations. If yours are similar, and you like well-produced, semi-retro dreampop that doesn’t strive to be the next Indie Sensation, Sell Your Memories will probably live up to yours, too.

Rating:

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


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Fonda - Seeing Stars
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