Review Summary: A unique hike through the mountains of the bizarre.
What if I told you there was a band out there that combined the screeching distortion of Sonic Youth and added it with the total absurdity of complete wackos Sun City Girls? Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 fit comfortably within this description. One thing I must make clear though, this band is not for those without patience.
Those who approach this with an open mind and are ready to take in all the sounds spinning around their head will find them to be an enticing, rewarding listen. A factor that contributes to this are the many interludes spread across each album (commonly known among fans as “feller filler”) which are at times amusing, melodic or downright annoying. Supposedly, the reason for this is that the band are such virtuosos at their respected instruments that they did not want to be taken in such a serious way, hence an attempt to include some bizarre breaks from the songs. The ‘feller filler’ is something that takes a while to get used to but eventually they will serve as mood pieces or good ways to flow from track to track.
Another reason is the previously mentioned skill of the players. Thinking Fellers Union Local #282 do not employ the techniques of just two guitar players but three, which makes for some fantastic interplay between the uniquely tuned angular guitars. Another is the brilliant lyrics which are not noticeable on the first listen but slowly unravel to the listener as more listens are required. Take for example a line semi-spoken in the opening track ‘Four O’Clocker 2’: ””She soiled my sheets and stepped on my feet, bled on my towels and opened her bowels beneath my pillow, where my head should rest to escape the rest”
… just one of the many strange and mesmerizing lyrics strewn across the album.
“Lovelyville” is the third album in the band’s catalogue and shows when they really started to come in to their own. Away were the practice session jam tapes that clogged up the majority of “Wormed by Leonard” (which, in all due respect, is still an excellent recording) or the dislikeable sheen that shrouded “Tangle”; this was truly when TFUL282 created the idiosyncrasies which would stick with them throughout the rest of their career. Though “Mother of All Saints” would be where the sound presented here would be toned and refined, this still presents a case that startles the listener into locked attention.
‘Nail in the Head’ demonstrates just how well the band works together. The chemistry in their sense of timing and interlocking parts illustrates a unified bond between the members. One thing I forgot to mention is the drumming which is usually superb. There is no heavy primitive pounding of the drum kit nor is there any particular part where the drumming bursts out and takes the forefront, but what is displayed is a real understanding of the instrument. Everything is very set in the background and a closer inspection reveals some very tricky rhythms set in a merger of different styles.
Arguably the centrepiece of the record is ‘2x4s’ which is a melancholic romp through the minds of TFUL282. The parts coalesce so beautifully that I can not describe it as anything else other than a perfect song. The progression of the chords melting in with the pleasant addition of a saxophone creates a perfect consonance between all the textures. What is so pleasant about the addition of the saxophone is that it isn’t really a major piece of the composition but only accents what is already there which makes it’s appearance all the more welcome. My personal favourite is “Sinking Boats” which is cathartic in nature and doesn’t take many breaks from the full-on power environment the track produces. One of the few times I’ve seen a band take dissonance and make it completely catchy and memorable.
If there is a problem I have with this album, it is that it is not as concise as future releases will be but the band are just starting to develop their signature sound which is forgivable. This is still a sprawling soundscape of absurdity, creative melodic passages and dissonance. “Mother of all Saints” may be their magnum opus but “Lovelyville” sits comfortably in their discography as an accomplished piece of work.