Fake Problems frontman Chris Farren sings like a demented carnival barker on the Florida band’s delightfully erratic third full-length, It’s Great to Be Alive, and, fittingly, the album often feels like a dizzying tour through the crazed funhouse of his mind. Take one turn and he’s serenading with fresh-faced young adult romantic angst, take another and he’s engulfed in the fury of biblical turmoil, and take one more and find him wrestling with a man-eating alligator. Lurching right alongside him is the impressively diverse and accomplished band, moving nimbly through the anthemic punk-pop sprint of “The Dream Team”, the mutant ska of “Don’t Worry Baby”, the old-timey country stomp of “The Heaven and Hell Cotillion”, the swampy bayou rave-up of “Level with the Devil”, the funky swagger of “Diamond Rings”, and the wistful balladry of “Heart BPM”. It is a manic sprawl of an album that might have wound up a total mess were it not simultaneously so much fun—in a just universe, “The Dream Team” would be one of the summer’s biggest pop hits—and anchored with such depth and unifying coherence. It’s Great to Be Alive is one of 2009’s richest and most enjoyable left-field surprises.
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