To Be Twee
Having listened to Fiver’s newest release Here It Comes a number of times now, I can only say that I must be missing out on whatever it is that makes these guys a decent draw over in England and attract a small but strong audience here in the States. Some things are often not easily explained when it comes to bands and their popularity, and so it is with myself and Fiver.
The band is comprised of various members of other groups such as Sparklehorse, Wheat, and Grandaddy. Featuring David Woods on vocals and guitar, Chris Doud on guitar, Ryan Coscia on drums, Andrew Bland on bass, and Sean Duncan on keyboards, Fiver creates a sound that disjointedly light to say the least. There are hints of some kind of long lost alt-rock in their sound, but it becomes lost in the thin atmosphere of the musical ideas that the band turns out.
Frankly, I just don’t like David Woody’s voice. He has one of those floating types of singing styles that barely registers any volume. When he double tracks his voice, he often can’t sing with himself in the same key, making for a bit of dissonance that is ultimately too frustrating to have to sit through over the course of an entire album, let alone one song. Add to that Woody’s penchant for singing various “da das” and “dum dums” and repeating certain lines in his already uninteresting lyrics, and you have cause for playing something else. Something better.
The first song, “Speeds of Light” sounds like Fiver is trying to ape Stereolab with its awkward guitar riff and Woody’s robotic vocals at the beginning. In fact, one might mistake Woody for a female vocalist, as his register tends to warrant such an assumption. But apart from a Stereolab framework (and a regrettably weak one at that), there’s not much here to stand on, other than the dry sound of Ryan Coscia’s drums that sound like they may fall apart at any moment.
Fiver tends to repeat varying degrees of this formula, although they slide more towards the generic alternative side of the road further on into the album. It might be interesting if the group could bother itself to pick up the pace here and there, but Woody and pals seem to be content with navel gazing in the middle of the road, their tempos staying at a light trot. It’s the kind of thing that mars songs like “Goner” and “Queen X”, though it may also simply be that these songs lack any overall punch altogether. Fiver seems reluctant to let its listeners in to their sound, as if they were playing in a closet with their backs to the door.
This sleepy insular mindset traps songs like “Warriors” and “Desires of the Lazer Age” into a monotonous sound, the band locking into a sloppy groove and Woody wailing away breathlessly. This stuff is bound to make one listless before it’s all over. However, the band almost breaks out of its cotton coccoon on the almost decent “O Fearless One” that actually has a bit of a bottom to it and a hint of a groove. If only it didn’t contain Woody’s dippy ruminations, it might have stood a good chance of being almost listenable.
Suffice it to say that Fiver is one of those twee bands that will surely have a firm clutch of supporters who are into the kind of nonsense that other bands such as Belle & Sebastian like to record. However, Fiver is more akin to the B&S splinter group Looper, another act that can manage to squeeze the life out of any party whenever their music is played. Here It Comes may have found favor in small pockets, but it’s hard to imagine this band making any serious waves outside the underground.