Fever Sleeves - Soft Pipes, Play On (Cover Artwork)

Fever Sleeves

Soft Pipes, Play On (2009)


I'll be blunt: I don't like the term "math rock." I'd go as far as to say that I hate it. It's stupid I don't believe it conveys anything about the music in any way whatsoever. If somebody had told me that I was about to listen to "math rock" before I first listened to Don Caballero, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Luckily, that didn't happen and my eyes were opened to enjoy the angular rhythms and odd time signatures that encapsulate the genre.

I apologize for starting a positive review with Andy Rooney-esque complaining, but I have just one more gripe: Some more recent math rock bands just sound like Explosions in the Sky with irregular and dissonant chords. Basically, the music is pretty boring. Math rock should have a little more ferocity and stop/start melody to it. They don't have to sound like Keelhaul or anything but some energy would be nice. I'm not a fan of the more light, relaxed music of the genre either. The first song on the album, "Vampyroteuthis" starts off like this, but only for the first 54 seconds. Then a more upbeat, chaotic riff breaks out, to my relief. Then, to my pleasure, the song gains a sharp, angular riff.

The vocals are a little soft spoken but it fits the music nicely. The serene vocal delivery both contrasts and complements the sharp-cornered rhythms of the music. The Q and Not U comparisons are inevitable, especially since the band is named after one of their songs. The dance-like rhythms are there, as exemplified by "Maximum Castles," one of the album's high points. The shifting musical focus never sounds cluttered, despite the awkward and complicated nature of the genre. The vocal melody is both catchy and relaxing at times.

They are reminiscent of So Many Dynamos; this is prevalent on the track "Hot Steel Heat." There is, however, less Dismemberment Plan influence here. Also, despite the solemn tone of the vocals, this band is not afraid to show off a little Breadwinner influence either. That is what's refreshing about this album -- the variety of influences mesh together to a point where the listener doesn't know what's going to happen next. The song can break into a jazzy bass interlude or just descend into chaos, segueing into the next track.

If I had just heard the vocal tracks to these songs, I'd swear it would be some catchy indie band. Yet, throw sometimes smooth, sometimes violent and shifting instrumentation under those vocals, and you get this album. This definitely makes the songs more accessible for those not too familiar with the genre. I would like to see how this band progresses, as this is one hell of a debut.

The entire album (minus the 30-second drone and static track "And") is streaming at their MySpace.

P.S. I don't generally give a shit about music videos, but this one is pretty cool. It's some weird cartoon ghost (who looks strikingly similar to that Mold creature from Aqua Teen Hunger Force) making its way through and interacting with different album covers.