The Strange and the Familiar

by ="Description" CONTENT="Fonda, The Strange and the Familiar (Hidden Agenda), review by David Fufkin


I had a roommate when I lived in NYC. He fell in love with a six foot dominatrix who he’d try to impress by making these small pipe bombs that made the loudest noise you have ever heard. She was strikingly beautiful, had dyed, Elvis-jet-black hair, rarely smiled and looked like Jane Fonda in her Klute period. You never knew what this girl was thinking. All you knew was that she was going to break my friend’s heart like a Ming vase in a jilted lover’s hands.

As I handled the CD and slipped it in the player, the image of this girl came to me like a Quaalude-hazy cloud over a pulsating dance floor, the speakers blaring Avalon by Roxy Music. Authoritative, mysterious, beautiful and sexy, my roommate’s “Fonda” had so many characteristics of this Fonda that I was compelled to share, so please, forgive me. Anyway . . .

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The Strange and the Familiar

Fonda has a commandingly seductive female lead singer, Emily Cook. The songs are, for the most part, layered movements in five minutes or less. The production on this recording is awesome. It’s a big, intense, sexy recording. The classic “Avalon” by Roxy Music is indeed a good comparison. There are “Boy’s Don’t Cry”—Cure moments. Ms. Cook reminds me a bit of Dominique Durand of Ivy without the Fench accent. Sorry for the obvious comparisons, but I think they help here.

The band got together as the result of sharing adoration for “vintage keyboards and the technicolar musicals of French film director Jacques Demy”. Yes, you hear the splendor of analog synths ala ARP, Moog and/or other manufacturers that are so obscure that attempts at identification are fruitless. All you need to know is that is that the keyboards on this recording give this CD the aura of spectacle.

I hated most of the music from the ‘80s that was keyboard-based. My problem had most to do with the fact that most of the artists failed to use the keyboard to its full advantage sonically. There is nothing more boring than cheesy keyboard strings following a 1/4/5 chord progression. With MIDI, analog synthesizers and keyboards in general, artists have an orchestra at their fingertips. Fonda gets this and squeeze massive amounts of melody out of the key they are writing in. It makes The Strange and the Familiar special.

This is another fine release from Hidden Agenda, the label that fails every time . . . to release a bad record.

Oh, and yes, the dominatrix broke my roommate’s heart. Then, she drained his bank account. I’m sure Ms. Cook is a far nicer person.

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