Fang Island make cheesy riffs and top-of-your-voice sing-alongs seem the most vital musical elements, ever. Their unabashed enthusiasm for all-embracing, utterly accessible noise-with-pop-nous is incredibly endearing – it’s (probably scientifically) impossible to come away from Major without a big dumb grin plastered from ear to ear.
Major is the Rhode Island outfit’s second album. Their first, an eponymous set released in 2010, was the kind of problems-forgetting collection that scooped its audience up and tumbled them around like each set of ears was cocooned within a wildly bouncing zorb. These 11 tracks pull off similar tricks – albeit not instantly. Kindergarten is an unexpected opener, its dominant constituent a piano. Yet its elegantly simple lyricism – “All I know / I learned in / Kindergarten,” goes its central refrain – is completely in tune with the unadulterated thrills that follow.
Sisterly immediately injects some amplified six-string adrenaline. It’s like the most euphoric moments of Weezer’s catalogue – those times when Rivers is singing about being awesome, rather than getting dumped – rolled into a single, sub-four-minute package. And Major repeats this feat, of delivering fist-punching tracks of triumphantly transcendental tumult, several times.
Seek it Out threatens to be a Russian Circles-like monster of heaviness; but these savvy musicians soon click into pop-minded gear to establish an easily identifiable verse-chorus-verse structure that, while creatively unadventurous, is powered by rocket fuel. Dooney Rock is a rather different proposition, something like a (completely incongruous) Irish jig scene in a Paul Verhoeven sci-fi flick, the musicians sporting reel shoes down south and mohawks up top.
Odd electronic trumpets spurt from Regalia; Chime Out is sludge-rock scattered with diamonds; and Never Understand is surely the lost titles music to a summer holiday sit-com (Pugwall, anyone?). So while Major plays up to the strengths of its predecessor, it also showcases vocal development and keeps the familiar listener guessing. That, and it manages to pull the most ridiculously OTT moves throughout.
Guitars behind backs, hips thrust forwards: these are the images that leap to mind. While down front, the most celebratory, cuddles-all-round circle pit ever seen breaks out under rainbow strobes.
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Brooklyn's beloved guitar-anthem optimists Fang Island return with an album befitting its title : Major. Like the painstakingly chiseled marble of the album artwork, Major is hefty, solid, monolithic and regal. Whereas Fang Island described their celebrated 2010 self-titled Sargent House debut as, "everyone high-fiving everyone," Major is evermore confident, triumphant and brimming with infectious enthusiasm. Its warm harmonies are given proper berth with more expansive dynamics and focused pop song craft. "One of our core ideas has always been that our songs would be all of your favorite parts of the song that other bands make you wait 8 minutes to get to," explains guitarist/vocalist Jason Bartell. "We wanted to be the band that's nothing but your favorite hooks back to back." Major shows Fang Island deftly achieving that aim. Kicking off with the overlapping neoclassical piano pirouette and chiming harmonized guitars of album opener "Kindergarten", Fang Island makes it clear from the outset that this is an album of musical and sonic growth, while at the same time a chorus of voices repeat the mantra, "all I know/ I learned in / kindergarten." It's that same unabashed embracing of childlike wonder filtered through visionary artistic sophistication that gives Fang Island its unique charm and sets the tone for this (ahem) major step forward for Bartell, guitarist/vocalist Chris Georges and drummer Marc St. Sauveur. Without a moment's rest, the definitive summer pop jam "Sisterly" launches the album skyward, led by the thick hook of a wah-wah pedal "chunka-chunka-chunka" riff that's guaranteed to have listeners busting out their air guitar moves. "Never Understand" revisits the classic Fang Island guitar harmony dogpile while what sounds like a cheery mob repeatedly intones, "I hope I never understand." Elsewhere, the rollicking anthem "Asunder" quickly builds momentum like a rolling snowball that eventually careens into a summertime BBQ -- the explosive payoff as the elements collide is pure pop bliss. Throughout, Major highlights the band's endeavor to elevate positivity as an art form. "It's equivalent to writing songs about being sad," Bartell says. "It can be too simplistic. Positive songs are often too shallow, and there are a lot of shades and depths to be explored." That exploration becomes clear from the first notes of Major.