Anyone dipping into "Loom" the debut album by Brighton's "Fear of Men" will be struck by a whiff of nostalgia. The jangly guitars throughout owe a real debt to Johnny Marr while the sweet vocals of Jessica Weiss are not a million miles away from Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. Rolling Stone in 1990 described the Sundays debut as "an alluring slice of lighter-than-air guitar pop, a collection of uncommonly good songs graced by... wondrous singing". Remarkably this judgement stands perfectly for "Loom".
It is a genuinely lovely and dreamy album of pristine pop songs with a sneaky art rock foundation. The band are a clever lot and like to quote Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. Musically they have learned their trade well and in particular guitarist Daniel Falvey seems like a bit of a star. Check out the lovely "Waterfall" (not a Stone Roses Cover) with Weiss bittersweet vocal and the chiming backdrop echoing the 80s band the Flatmates. For one moment this reviwer thought the single "Green Sea" was about to break into "Outdoor Miner" by Wire but as it turns out it's a sublime piece of pop music deserving repeated plays. "America" starts off sounding like a folk song and does show the inherent strength of the song writing in the band with a slowish ballad gentling unfurling over a wistful three minutes. With songs like the standout "Descent" the band are locked down for future success; its chiming chords and hooks are an intoxicating mix and this one could trouble charts if some enlightened radio DJ shows some impeccable taste. Finally on "Inside" the albums longest track at over six minutes the band breath out and produce a song of rare quality with just the smallest echo of Beachouse, ditto the previous single "Seer".
Fear of Man are clearly grounded in an late 1980s indie ethic and what is wrong with that? It was a period that produced some great music outside the mainstream and is a rich vein to mine. The further good news is that Fear of Men don't just reference this music they build on it with a delicious set of songs. "Loom" is by no means a world beating or particularly original album yet it is very enjoyable, full of melody, uplifting hooks and imbued with the faintest hint of mystery.
Basically a lovely dreamy jangly album but with a definite dark undercurrent. Opening with a short ethereal spoken piece (plus a similar acoustic piece to close the set) the album is full of shimmery guitars over Jessica's very easy on the ear vocals. They've included some flute and violin for good measure but interwoven through many of the tracks are guitar (or synth?) effects which give the album a more sombre/claustrophobic feel especially on 'inside' which however does start to drag a bit before it's raucous noisy ending. There are some very catchy tracks e.g 'waterfall' & 'tephra' but a few that pass by unnoticed. However, overall very good and 7.5/10 from me. On a non-musical aside, the lyric sheet is extremely difficult to extract from the digipack without tearing the sleeve so buyers beware!!
Starts off with a very short gentle 'Alta' then songstress Jessica lets rip as it segues into the strident 'Waterfall'. The driving deliberate beat accompanied by the dream pop jangle & sometimes backwards guitar sounds creates a fine start "take me to the waterfall when it's over". 'Green Sea' with some brisk acoustic guitar strums is melodic, atmospheric & probably the best here "I bend beneath the water I bend beneath the sea". 'Vitrine' with a shoegazing atmosphere wraps you up with misty eyed vocals & melancholic dizziness "idle daydreams" "tell me that you need me". 'Tephra' urgent sounds via nervous drums "you know that there is a price to pay" "show me what I used to be". 'America' & 'Seer' are more of the same & it's a full vocal sound ethereal with some quite lush harmonies...a nice melodic tuneful approach with energy & urgency. This though raises the point that it is now beginning to sound a little one dimensional (not enough light & shade....plus where some hardness would not go astray). 'Luna' takes things back up with darting harmonies in the mix & is another top track. 'Descent' as Jessica's voice floats above the backing energy & action "What dreams may come...why life is what it is" whilst 'Inside' galvanises into a full blast guitar, harmonies plus drums workout before ending where this trip began with the peaceful acoustic guitar 'Alta'. In conclusion these are lovable get the job done sprightly indie folk rock sounds but where there are room for some slight improvements.
With several demos and 7" releases causing considerable buzz, and then having them compiled for the critically acclaimed Early Elements via Kanine Records, it's safe to say that Fear of Men had some momentum on their side.
It would have been easy to buy into the hype and produce a paint-by-numbers album. They have safely avoided that pitfall. There’s a very self-conscious and refined approach and sound to Fear of Men's debut album Loom. The way in which the album starts - with the sparse arrangement of "Alta" - allows Jessica Weiss' wistful, tender vocal to take you into its embrace.
A common theme on Loom is how you’re purposefully left in a middle ground of sorts, as you’re not allowed to be drawn in for any considerable amount of time. The driving, deliberate beat accompanied by brisk jangle of dream pop tinged guitar soon snaps you out of the misty eyed daze of the intro track. There are many moments where the band set out their own brand of sound as it flirts with shoegaze still keeps a strong sense of melodic prowess whilst subtly experimenting with composition and texture. Jessica's vocal work that’s often quite dizzying as overdubs of various harmonies busy the scene and combined with gliding guitars soaring over machine gun bursts of percussion on "Tephra" it may sound vaguely familiar, but there’s a sense of urgency that others before them only faintly touched upon
Again, the unpredictable changes. There are moments throughout where the mood can starkly change as they easily transform from a gentle breeze to quite a harsh, abrasive quality. Lyrically, it is just as turbulent, there are fragile moments of heartbreak that suddenly give way to bitterness and violence as featured on "Seer". The constantly moving undercurrent that hides a dark side brings out an unsettling feeling which still somehow pulls you into the depths of the album with heart on your sleeve sentiment. A bold step forward that shows an often forgotten skills of toying with the listening audience.
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I do like jingly jangly pop,even better when there is a slight rock feel to it,the songs here almost have a distorted sound to them.If you took Dubstar from back in the 90's & crossed them with First Aid Kit,you'd get something close to Loom. A really good debut full of good catchy,understated pop songs,what's not to like?