Fanfarlo - Reservoir Album Review
Fanfarlo is a group from London formed by a collection of musicians, from London put together by Simon Balthazar. They are, Amos on drums, percussion and vocals, Cathy on violin, keys, mandolin, glock vocals and saw, Justin on playing bass and banjo, Leon on trumpet, keys, glock and melodica, Simon on vocals, guitar, keys, mandolin, sax, clarinet and glock and Mark - guitar, keys, vocals, accordion, fanfarlophone, noise. Another collection of musicians who are embracing the diversity of instruments to hand.
This album has been exceptionally conflicting for me to review, namely because it's less than a little inconsistent, and an inconsistency which doesn't extend from just track to track, it's inconsistent within each track. Every track in its own way has an exceptionally good element. The bits that stand out are, the piano of 'I am A Pilot', the synth of 'Comets', the bass of 'Ghosts', the drums from 'Luna', and the mandolin of 'The Walls Are Coming Down' in which if the rompy feeling they touch upon could blend all these elements together it would be one hell of a track. But, their sectioning of each song is a little dull and predictable, intro, verse, chorus, verse, verse, instrumental, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, outro done. every single time.
'Ghosts' has a Beirut feeling to it, especially coming from the vocals, but it's let down by the Snow Patrol breakdown, to then be uplifted by a very Jam-esque instrumental to then be let down by the dramatic strings, but brought back to life with the Jam-eque outro. It's all very confusing to be honest. I like it for 10 seconds, then hate it, then like it, then hate it. It's a bit of a rollercoaster to be frank. At the end there is a strange sense of relief. Like an aural game of tennis.
'Luna' reminds me of 'Lovely Allen' by Holy F*ck with the synth background, which is then let down by the badly orchestrated claps, now don't get my wrong, I love percussive claps, when used right, in a way say Born Ruffians have used them of late, they are awesomely uplifting, but Fanfarlo didn't quite hit the mark. I wasn't uplifted. This track also has a slow dramatic middle to it, and then the rousing intentionally aiming to be uplifting strings which then break back down into the good bit. I don't get it. It's such a frustrating listen. When it's been spliced and elongated in a way that makes it sounds hammy and bloated. Keep the romping going more. Although I did like the harmonica at the end... Oh my God I'm so conflicted.
'Comets' is a very prescribed indie guitar based song, that has been expanded on with mates to a point of saturation. Choral vocals, full gusto drums plodding out a Fleetwood Mac ballad rhythm.
On the very Killers-esque 'Drowning Men', I wanted to sing "I've got soul but I'm not a solider" over the top of it.
Then there is a hint of Belle & Sebastian from the vocal duet on 'Harold T. Wilkins or How to Wait for a Very Long Time'.
And I guess that's when I see the problem.
I like all of the people I have just mentioned, with exception of The Killers, maybe one or two of their early tracks were once upon a time fun, for like a week or something, and then I realised it was a bit dull, oh dear off on a tangent, my point, back to my point... I like all of the people I mentioned, except the Killers, and they all do what Fanfarlo are doing but much better, even the Killers. They have all the same elements, but don't put them in uncomfortable juxtapositions. They don't show too many of their cards all at once. They have balance and an editing eye. I cant help feeling like this album could have been good, and for someone who likes the artists I have mentioned I would say its highly likely you would either like Fanfarlo for it, dislike them or feel the same as me, a like and dislike in equal measure. For me however, that is enough for them to be mean nothing too me. Mediocre is a harsh word but it's perhaps best. Not one thing on the tracks on the album sticks out or sticks with you.