It’s a sorry state of affairs when a band as brilliant as Fluid Ounces is mainly known as “those guys that sound like Ben Folds Five.” See, best I can figure, it’s because…gasp!...the group’s songs are piano-driven. Once upon a time, pianos were common enough in popular music, yet somehow every artist that came down the pike tickling the ivories wasn’t slated as a Liberace-wannabe. So ends the rant…now let’s enjoy the tunes.
And what fine tunes they are. Forget Ben Folds Five, I’m more inclined to compare Fluid Ounces to Queen as they’ve got the talent for perfect hooks, a bit of camp, and an assured ability to rock out. The comparison is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Like Freddie Mercury in particular, Fluid Ounces display more than a passing fancy for “old-fashioned” vaudeville sounds. Anyone who digs the whimsical Old Blighty sounds of “Seaside Rendezvous” or “Good Company” from Queen’s A Night at the Opera (1975), will hit the payload with In The New Old Fashioned Way.
As if that weren’t enough, these boys share with Fountains of Wayne the rare ability to craft quite bizarre but thoroughly clever lyrics that always seem naturally witty rather than forced or contrived. Check out Seth Timbs’ wacky turns-of phrases on “Marvel Girl”: “Elf lord slain by a goblin blade / but justice waited in the very next frame / It’s Marvel Girl / stop action heroine / better than heroin.” It brings to mind the Fountains of Wayne’s superlative “Red Dragon Tattoo” from Utopia Parkway.
What ultimately puts Fluid Ounces over the top and saves them from even the slightest hint of wimpdom is their utter lack of self-consciousness and the ability to rock out with pure abandon. It’s rare these days to encounter a band and a songwriter like Timbs who fully believe in devoting themselves to the art of constructing the perfect song, both lyrically and musically. Now that is “in the old fashioned way.”
// Notes from the Road
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