LA-based punk band FIDLAR takes their name from the skate mantra “f*ck it dog, life’s a risk,” and true to those words the band takes many risks on their sophomore album, Too.
The band consists of frontman Zac Carper, bassist Brandon Schwartzel, and brothers Elvis and Max Kuehn on guitar and drums respectively (fun fact – Max played bass for Miley Cyrus in her Hannah Montana days). In typical LA punk fashion, the band’s music mainly focuses on surfing, drinking, drugs, and debauchery, and that remains true on Too. What changes is the musical approach the band takes in pursuit of these subjects.
The largest difference between Too and FIDLAR’s previous material is the production quality. Songs on this album sound much cleaner, contrasting with the band’s gritty, lo-fi sound of the past. The higher production quality achieves mixed results. The more quiet and relaxed tracks on the album like “Overdose,” and the beginning of “Bad Habits” sound excellent and help give the album more than just high energy punk.
Unfortunately, these songs suffer from the better production quality. “Bad Medicine” has a great riff and would be one of best tracks on the album if only it had grittier sound of FIDLAR’s past. “West Coast”, a redone version of a previous single, disappointingly sounds worse than the original song, which had much more raw energy and excitement.
The other major change in this album is a heavier experimentation with vocals. While the higher production quality sometimes succeeds, the vocals generally fall flat. “Why Generation” and “Hey Johnny” suffer from the use of odd, synthesizer-like effects on Carper’s voice.
If the album has a saving grace, it is the guitar. Elvis Kuehn’s riffs are consistently fantastic, especially shining on “Drone” and “Leave Me Alone”. Even the lackluster tracks on the album, like “Punks”, can at least boast of having some great guitar.
Overall, the higher production quality allows for FIDLAR to explore beyond their strictly punk background, but at the expense of weakening this same punk that has been so great in the past.
Voices Choices: Drone, Bad Habits
image credit: stereogum.com, earmilk.com