Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Written by: TL on 19/06/2016 13:23:50
One of the most pleasant surprises of 2014 came from three Scotsmen debuting under the name of Fatherson, with the album "I Am An Island" which, frankly, sounded larger than. That one opened some eyes and ears in British music media, and now a timely two years later the group is looking to forge on while the proverbial iron is hot, following up with a new album just released under the title "Open Book". The style is lofty, soaring, and melodious indie rock, the kind of which you would expect from the likes of Snow Patrol, Mumford & Sons or Coldplay on their best days, and which you can easily imagine lifting the roofs off theatres and festival tents.
Now, there are twelve tracks on "Open Book", and to be perfectly frank, the opening four are disappointing, mildly frustrating even. "Just Past The Point Of Breaking" and "Lost Little Boys" - both single choices - are decent, if a bit hasty in their progressions; kind of like the work of a band aware of its commercial potential and overly concerned with the attention span of mainstream listeners. But in coupling with "Always" - another single choice, which feels like a lazily manufactured attempt at an upbeat one at that - and the new wave-ish "Wondrous Heart", things come off shallow from the start, and feel like Fatherson wasting their potential on making easily forgettable radio rock. The latter song in particular has an unnecessary 'whoa-oh' choir that sounds like something Chris Martin's publicists would commission some sort of nauseatingly superficial "adventure and good times" video for. And these first four tunes are even sequenced in a way where one barely has time to ring out before the next is starting.
Any concerns about Fatherson going to far with the selling out, however, are dissipated as soon as they allow themselves some space for things to - as they say, breathe - and the low-key ballad "Joanna" definitely does that, allowing a hint of organ to creep in before some warm bass notes come in and lift up guitarist Ross Leighton's immaculate and deliciously Scottish singing. You get to hear the airy texture of his low notes and the wavering timbre of his prolonged croons, and suddenly, you know that you're still in safe hands.
From here on things get good: Like chills down the spine kind of good. The minimalistic piano soul of "Younger Days" scales the instrumentation further back and focuses the spotlight even more on Leighton, which he shoulders with another impressive performance. And when amplification is plugged in with the title track "Open Book" it does so with the kind of effect that simply lifts listeners off their feet. "Forest" rings in with a wall of guitar chords and a sweeping, anthemic refrain, and a couple of numbers later "Stop The Car" seizes you with similar effect and a delicious little bass groove to boot. The note Leighton extends in the chorus here is pure as gold.
Overall, though, the simple message is that from track five to twelve, there's no reason to nitpick as Fatherson consistently just lay down the law in terms of making this kind of - sigh, there's no way around calling it stadium rock, is there? They have you worried for a couple of songs there in the beginning, that they might have become lazy and cynical at a very early point in their career, but man does the rest of the album make up for it. Enough so to still secure "Open Book" a top spot as one of the most rewarding albums so far this year, so hopefully Fatherson realise that they can confidently keep writing songs akin to the latter ones here, and still expect to grow big. Because mark these words, if this band does not grow big, someone in their camp is doing things wrong. The tunes are there.
Download: Open Book, Younger Days, Stop The Car
For The Fans Of: Snow Patrol, Mumford & Sons, Small Time Giants, Frightened Rabbit
Release date 03.06.2016
Sony Music Entertainment UK