WELLINGTON SEVEN-PIECE Fat Freddys Drop make it easy to like them. Their languid, atmospheric sound reeks of warm days on the beach, lovers rock reggae, mid-70s funk and nights around the billiards table adorning smoking jackets.
Perhaps, however, they are a touch too laidback; after all, the recently-arrived Bays is the band’s fourth studio effort in a decade and a half.
They’ve done and dusted the national tour so many times there’s nary a town hall or opera theatre that won’t have a browning poster for one of their performances, and they’ve clocked up the air miles and the frequent flyer points to convert the masses in all the countries that will have them.
Hence, a large and devoted following, here, there and everywhere.
Bays – named after their recording studio on the south Wellington coast – commences its adventure with Wairunga Blues, a track that has the traditional Freddys’ hallmarks, and indeed is so gloriously adept and full of horns, soul and upbeatness that I am immediately reminded of their finest moment, Wandering Eye from 2005’s Based On A True Story album.
And then there’s Razor, an, ahem, sharp number bouncing with electro mash-ups and Dallas Tamaira’s magnificently eerie vocals. Listen to this from the link below.
Meanwhile, Wheels contains some pulsating keyboards and a lyrical snatch, “living in a fantasy” repeated ad nauseum, a la The Orb.
There are some reservations though. Slings and Arrows opens with a 1980s Corgi-style mini keyboard synth that could have been made for an Atari console game. Despite this nascent adventurism, the track sounds like it could’ve come direct from a UB40 album from 2005. You could, perhaps, level the same accusation at 10 Feet Tall, a hypnotic, easy-on-the-ear track. And therein lies the issue: it’s too simplistic, too much of a retrawl of past glories.
I like the album, but it’s not in any way a challenging listen, which you might expect from a band at this stage of their careers.
Perhaps, we could have had guest vocals on some tracks, particularly from a female singer. Now, what a team-up it would have been if Lorde had lent a hand. Perhaps, also the diversity that’s hinted at in some songs, notably Razor and Slings And Arrows could’ve been developed.
But, maybe, FFD are afraid of losing their core fanbase. Regardless, this will be a massive hit, and Porky will enjoy seeing the band on their travels.