Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Album: Fun Machine - Sonnenhuhn

Album: Sonnenhuhn (That's German for "Sun Chicken"!)
BNS Sessions, 2008
Rating: ****** (6/10)

I'm slowly catching up with my reviews, but I'm still a little behind - this album was released digitally yesterday. It's not officially released on disc until January 6, though (or thereabouts - I'm not 100% certain on the date).

I already raved about my new-found love for Fun Machine earlier this month, and I was excited to hear and write about the album. But it proved a challenging task.

The tricky thing about Sonnenhuhn is that my reaction is strongly mixed. On the one hand, I'm in love. The entire record is overflowing with creativity. In fact, it doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard, and yet it totally rocks. Looking up close, there's not much I don't like - melodramtic, cheesy keyboard parts (trust me, it's a good thing here), odd, assymetrical rhythms, startling bursts of sound, tense beats, forays out of the key signature, it all works.

That the band can perform such complex, fast, syncopated pieces is astounding in itself. It's hard to actually describe the sound, but think Pink Floyd meets Queen in the year 2500 and makes robot party versions of Broadway showtunes. It's a bit like Dismemberment Plan, a bit like the Talking Heads, a bit like the Flaming Lips. Progressive psychedelic pop? Maybe?

Yes, this all sounds delicious, but when I step back to look at the big picture, it starts to fall apart. The album is a rather sophomoric effort in many ways, mostly because the band doesn't seem to know how to edit or meld their ideas into cohesive statements. Each track isn't a song, it's just a series of loose inspirations stuck together, like a stream-of-consciousness essay. The album is sprawling, and on neither a song level nor album level does the music move forward or build on itself. Specifically, I'm pretty sure you could easily take apart the phrases, rearrange them completely and have approximately the same result. In fact, I suspect the album might improve if you just put in three times as many track breaks and split up the longer songs into two or three minute segments. As it is, it's jumbled and incoherrent and doesn't reveal any larger-scale vision than "hey, this would sound cool!"

But this is still an interesting album and worth getting familiar with. Why? Because each member of this band is clearly brilliant, and I'll bet actual money they'll each go on to do great things in music, either individually or very probably, and hopefully, as Fun Machine. This band is onto something very good - their originality is outstanding and their chops are nothing to sneeze at. If their sound matures with time, they have the potential to be one of the most interesting bands of our time. (Seriously!) One day, we may look back on Sonnenhuhn and see the first glimmer of greatness. Let's hope!

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