Fat Freddy's Drop number two

21:11, Jul 28 2009

This week Fat Freddy's Drop released album number two, Dr Boondigga and the Big BW.

This comes four years after debut studio album Based on a True Story. And about two months after I made a call here that I was, to date, unimpressed with the band's music. I didn't get the buzz. I couldn't roll with it.

So I'm here now to talk about the second album; because it is clearly a key release, arriving just in time as we near the end of New Zealand Music Month. And because the band's following is huge - several angry punters wrote in to defend their favourite group last time I wrote about FFD.

I wondered if I should write about the second album at all - if I say that I love it, it looks like I'm trying to cover up for what I said last time (and that's not how I operate). If I say that I hate it/am bored by it...well...we end up where we did last time - a 50/50 split with some people taking the side of not being interested in the group at all and others professing that Fat Freddy's are the be-all and end-all.

It's funny - I have read and re-read that FFD post more than anything else I have written for Blog on the Tracks. People would alert me to radio interviews featuring comments by the band and I would go back and read it, checking that I really did stand by what I wrote (I did - and I do). People emailed telling me that they were sick of being asked about their thoughts on my post. I would read the post again - still happy with what I wrote. I never saw it as any big thing. It shows how much people care about Fat Freddy's Drop that we got over 200 comments - more than anything else I've written. And it was a Monday too!

So I asked for a copy of album number two - figuring I would be told that rather than getting FFD I could just get F'D.

This week Fat Freddy's Drop released album number two, Dr Boondigga and the Big BW.

This comes four years after debut studio album Based on a True Story. And about two months after I made a call here that I was, to date, unimpressed with the band's music. I didn't get the buzz. I couldn't roll with it.

So I'm here now to talk about the second album; because it is clearly a key release, arriving just in time as we near the end of New Zealand Music Month. And because the band's following is huge - several angry punters wrote in to defend their favourite group last time I wrote about FFD.

I wondered if I should write about the second album at all - if I say that I love it, it looks like I'm trying to cover up for what I said last time (and that's not how I operate). If I say that I hate it/am bored by it...well...we end up where we did last time - a 50/50 split with some people taking the side of not being interested in the group at all and others professing that Fat Freddy's are the be-all and end-all.

It's funny - I have read and re-read that FFD post more than anything else I have written for Blog on the Tracks. People would alert me to radio interviews featuring comments by the band and I would go back and read it, checking that I really did stand by what I wrote (I did - and I do). People emailed telling me that they were sick of being asked about their thoughts on my post. I would read the post again - still happy with what I wrote. I never saw it as any big thing. It shows how much people care about Fat Freddy's Drop that we got over 200 comments - more than anything else I've written. And it was a Monday too!

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So I asked for a copy of album number two - figuring I would be told that rather than getting FFD I could just get F'D.

The band's manager rang me last week - curious as to why I wanted the album and telling me that I "was playing with people's lives" and "saying hurtful things". I laughed that off and told her that I was happy to give the album a listen and comment on it because - as I said above - it's a key release; they're a big deal. It's NZ Music Month. It's been four years - and if the last time I posted about the band was anything to go by we might get a bunch of opinions again, which is what it's all about. I never said anything about the members of the band personally, as I really don't know them. I'm impressed with the business model but I just haven't liked the band's music. It's really that simple.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the album arrived in the letterbox and even more pleasantly surprised to hear some old synth and keyboard sounds as track one, Big BW, made itself known.

Track 2: Shiverman - is awesome. I hear live drums; the groove is actually being nailed down rather than tacked into place. And Dallas owns this track. Ten minutes speeds by, rather than narcoleptically nodding into place.

Track 3: Boondigga - this might go on to be one of Fat Freddy's Drop's shining moments, the groove is slinky, sultry and full of soul - the one (overused) word I always hear mentioned with this band and have struggled to find myself. The jazzy interplay is subtle; the song has a gentle, well-crafted bounce to it. It's slick but not too polished. And the same can be said for the album, three tracks in. So far, I'm impressed.

Track 4: The Raft - the most overtly reggae-related groove on the album - Dallas sings some mumbo jumbo about how his people have been treated. I'm close to losing interest but it's pleasant enough, musically. The production is amazing.

Track 5: Pull the Catch - this is the first single (you can click on the link to see the clip). I didn't like this song when I heard it at the start of the year. And I still am not convinced by it. I don't hate it, it's not offensive in any way but it falls into all the sad, tired clichés that plagued the first album and bugged me about the band's sound. Phoned-in soul music. It's also the shortest track on the album - the obvious single - cleverly designed to appeal instantly to most that loved Based on a True Story. It's a good plan, but still an average song.

Track 6: The Camel - awesome blues vibe and buckets of soul. There's vamping galore because that's what Fat Freddy's do - but this time it's great.

Track 7: The Nod - now this one's downright bizarre. The lyrics are all about the band's lifestyle, hanging out and catchy crayfish (didn't we do that already with Pull the Catch?) and singing about "something cooking in the kitchen tonight". There's a strain of bluesy harmonica, a guest rap and a quirky lapse into a New Orleans-styled marching band feel. It's kinda cool and simultaneously naff beyond belief. I guess this is a band with nothing to prove and that's just as well because this song does not prove anything.

Track 8: Wild Wind - this is so-so, the second half of the album has a few high points but it also falls in to the lazy ways of Based on a True Story. The repetition gets a bit...well, repetitive.

Track 9: Breakthrough - this is all over the place but the shifts from dissonance to cutesy pop ditty to bog-standard Fat Freddy's dub-dirge don't really mean a lot to me. Perhaps they will to you.

So, there you go. In no way could I say I hated this album - in fact I really am impressed with the sonic ground it covers. But it does (and this is both bad and good) literally move from the sublime to the ridiculous. The first three tracks are very strong. Then there's a two-track lull, then one stonking track and something downright silly before a wafting, rolling, meandering fade in to the ether...the closing track tries to be at least three different kinds of song...

I gave you my thoughts, for what they are worth. Now I'm interested to hear yours. Have you rushed out to buy it and ended up disappointed because it's not just like Based on a True Story? Are you pleased with the progression? Can they do no wrong? Or - can they do no right? Will you not listen to the album? 

What do you think about Dr Boondigga and the Big BW?