Some music is just too pretty. Yes, this does happen. The debate starts when one must decide whether each person’s saccharine saturation level is a personal preference, or whether we as humans can only absorb so much before an officially sanctioned saturation level is reached. All music above that echelon must be eliminated in order to avoid brain rot.
This would naturally include most contemporary pop music (barring Christina Aguilera), R&B from the ‘80s to the present (excluding Erykah Badu), a crap-load of pop bands purporting to be punk rockers, and a surprising number of indie pop and rock outfits. Why this last one? Because of that damn fuzz, those breathy and ethereal vocals, and the muffled drum beats that hiss at us instead of driving the songs as they should. The whole buzzy/fuzzy thing is tired. Literally. The listeners are drowsy from listening to those “sweet melodies” and “fuzzy, ethereal vocals”.
That said, let’s welcome fuzz veterans Fiver back onto the scene. The band’s newest album, Let It All Fall Down—released on Devil in the Woods Records—is Fiver’s fourth full-length, and yet another foray into the Land of Twinkling Guitars, Perfect Harmonies, and Muffled Rhythms. The band formed in 1993, in Modesto California, as a trio led by singer/guitarist David Woody. By 1995, the full lineup was all straightened out and Fiver was a sextet. A demo circulated in the mid-90s, with a full-length dropping in 1998. Almost immediately, Fiver found its niche in the fuzz-friendly Modesto scene alongside Grandaddy and Pavement. Devil in the Woods Records—based in Modesto—put out two more of the band’s albums in 2000 and 2002.
Let It All Fall Down continues in Fiver’s previous vein of sleepy, ambient, and melodic indie rock. The album kicks off with “Last Song (First)”, a cleverly placed minute-and-a-half track that totally belongs at the end of an album. It features some interesting horn textures that might be announcing livelier songs ahead, simply because “Last Song (First)” serves as the record’s first and last thought.
And initially, the first impression is correct. The next couple tracks are intriguing and memorable. Bassist Amy Metcaff and keyboardist Lauren Singleton contribute lovely harmonies that lend “Lost Enterprise”, “Scared, Not Scared”, and “Keep Us in Stitches” a misty, haunting quality. Metcaff’s bass lines on “Scared, Not Scared” are the album’s most recognizable hook. Not only that, but they lend themselves to dancing—not just swaying.
“Keep Us in Stitches” offers a laid-back, shuffling beat and a down-right buoyant hook that grabs and holds the attention. The outro at the three-minute mark is gorgeous, with iridescent guitar and vocal melodies. Sadly the song ends right after that beautiful moment.
The title track features appropriately cascading vocals with the guitar quietly ascending behind them. The complexity of the harmonies juxtaposed with the simple progression of chords would make for a pleasant meander with the headphones.
Sadly, the rest of the album devolves into somnolent shoe-gazing—not particularly interesting to anyone who likes to keep his/her blood pressure up within a normal, cognizant range. One bright spot is “They Hardly Know”—a surprising rocker smack in the middle of the airy second side. Even after several listens, however, the last half of Let It All Fall Down encourages drifting trains of thought as well as drifting in and out of consciousness.
This is all because Fiver’s music is too pretty for its own good. The first few tracks possess a certain balance that offers both beauty and sadness. The rest of the record balances prettiness with dreaminess. And, really, those two qualities are just too similar. The result is saccharine overload.