Music

Fluid Ounces: The Whole Shebang

David Medsker

It's not always in a name as Fluid Ounces proves by deviating from the norm with a decidedly listenable album.


Fluid Ounces

The Whole Shebang

Label: Vacant Cage
US Release Date: 2004-07-14
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

For years I've had a pet theory that a band's name is crucial to their long-term success. Sure there will always be bands who succeed in spite of their lousy monikers (Matchbox Twenty, Linkin Park) but the best bands, with rare exception, have great names: the Beatles, U2, Guns N' Roses, the Smiths, and Public Enemy to name a few.

This theory works in reverse as well. Many bands have found themselves hamstrung by their names. Dexy's Midnight Runners, A Flock of Seagulls, Dishwalla and Marcy Playground all did themselves in long before their careers even took off. Likewise Fred Durst is no doubt wondering to himself why exactly he chose to name his band Limp Bizkit, with five years' time now showing him the error of his ways.

So that covers good bands with good names, and bad bands with bad names. What to do then with good bands saddled by bad names? Apparently nothing, if Fluid Ounces are any indication. The pride of Murfreesboro, TN are better than the aforementioned bands in the second paragraph combined, yet the closest they ever get to the mainstream is that someone will occasionally compare them to Ben Folds Five. They're better than Ben Folds Five of course, but you're best doing what the overwhelming majority of the music buying public did/does, and judge the book by its cover. Holding albums from both bands in your paws, are you buying Ben Folds Five or Fluid Ounces?

Thought so. It was the name, wasn't it?

Well, resist that urge to skip this band over. On Fluid Ounces' latest offering, The Whole Shebang, singer/pianist/core member Seth Timbs gives us more of his trademark dazzlingly witty and literate piano pop, but he also lets rip with a few badass guitar tracks as well. Sure, it's not ABC going from The Lexicon of Love to Beauty Stab here, but that's not exactly a bad thing, either. Either way, The Whole Shebang is undoubtedly the ballsiest album Timbs has ever done, and possibly his best.

Timbs doesn't take the fans out of their comfort zone right away, however. Leadoff track, the galloping "Paperweight Machine" bears a touch of Madness of all things, though it's rooted in Timbs' classic pop and Vaudevillian sensibilities. "Crazies" is another gem, though the nonsense la-da-da-dada-da-da chorus tests the patience.

And then there's "Fool Around", a full blown guitar rave up (Timbs plays every instrument on the album except the drums, though he plays those on one track as well) about nailing his girl when her parents aren't watching. The lyrics are a hoot, filled with enough transparent sexual imagery to shame Peter Gabriel and Neil Finn combined: "I'm gonna make the scene out of next to nothing / And everything's gonna be up and coming / till it's full grown." Timbs is clearly having a great time here, even shouting out "Riff!" before going into the, yes, riff heavy bridge. Send this to alternative radio, stat.

The key three songs though, are the last three. "Selma Lou" is pure Southern charm, a fast but soft acoustic jam about a girl who's never worked a day in her life and shows Timbs exactly what he's good for (Timbs seems to get laid a lot in his songs); "Tokyo Expressway" is the album's crown jewel, a song that's about either a rock star, or the rock star inside someone's head. "Good evening boys and girls / I'm coming to you from the other side of the world / Where I just lost my job and I can't say I'm even worth $6.50 an hour." Along the way there are references to plane crashes, party after party, and even the Kamchaka Peninsula (It's in Russia, I had to look it up). What makes this song truly special is just how seamless it all sounds, then considering the fact that Timbs played it all by himself (except the drums, played by Kyle Walsh). Sure, he's not the only person to do such a thing, not while Lenny Kravitz and Joseph Arthur are still alive and kicking. The difference though, is that Timbs makes himself sound like a band, whereas the others are just making songs. There's a big difference, and Timbs understands it like no other.

Which brings us to the heartbreaking finale, "Destined to Be Forgotten". A Beatles tribute by way of Elliott Smith, it is not love gone wrong so much as love lost and left behind, which is what most love winds up becoming. The sweet moment comes at the solo, and while Timbs is still a far better pianist than axe man, he does a spot on George Harrison, elevating the song to new heights. Timbs doesn't let his guard down much -- "Bigger Than the Both of Us", from 1999's In the New Old Fashioned Way, was probably the last time before this -- but when he does, genius follows.

This is Fluid Ounces' fourth album and third record label, and radio payola isn't getting any cheaper. At this point, Timbs knows he's making these records for himself and his friends, while his inferior doppelganger is rockin' the suburbs. Life is like that sometimes; not everything turns out the way it should. Fortunately for us, Timbs doesn't seem to mind. In fact, it seems to only make him stronger. Good news for his friends and bad news for people who only read book covers.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image