splendid > reviews > 7/12/2003
Fruit Bats
Fruit Bats
Sub Pop

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Magic Hour"

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We've all had that feeling. You're driving on a long stretch of road, or sitting in a lecture hall, or in a movie theatre watching The Matrix: Reloaded, and your mind has been so numbed by the constant stream of sameness that you find you just can't stay awake any more. Your head bobs, you check the corner of your mouth for drool and no matter how hard you try to regain focus, you feel yourself slipping away into dreamland. Fruit Bats have bottled that serene feeling -- that split second between the beginning of your dream and that nasty jerk of the head back into the waking world -- and distilled Mouthfuls from the elixir.

From the opening chords of "Rainbow Sign", Fruit Bats are delicate -- never picking up velocity, just floating there for a second, like when you've fallen asleep without realizing it. Notes played on a xylophone near the song's conclusion emulate a music box, completing the effect. You are relaxed, content and getting a little sleepy, but you don't want to succumb. Like a young child who focuses every bit of his waning energy on staying awake, you want to hear more.

In a voice that sounds like Freddie Mercury (if Freddie Mercury sang slow, dreamy ballads), Eric Johnson (not the one from the Archers of Loaf) waits for a "cloud shaped like the Garden State / little stars are cars at turnpike gates / and the moon is Delaware" in "Magic Hour". It comes across like a perfect lullaby. In "Union Blanket", the cadence of Johnson's acoustic guitar keeps perfect symmetry with the slow falling of your head as you finally succumb to sleep, each change accentuated in time with the reflex that brings you back, keeping you from crashing your car. Gillian Lisee, the other permanent Fruit Bat, adds to the dreamy feel, providing sweet backing vocals and subtle electronic pulses throughout the record. Many songs drift languidly past the five minute mark, at times to their detriment, but you'll be so relaxed you probably won't mind.

The Fruit Bats' music nods to the psychedelic pop of the late '60s, the singer-songwriter folkies of early '70s and the subtler end of the late '90s Elephant 6 explosion. You can pinpoint a little Beach Boys here, some Nick Drake there and a bit of Sunshine Fix in-between, but the Fruit Bats sound like the Fruit Bats. As it was for the aforementioned artists, the production here is cracking good.

Mouthfuls may not be the best CD to listen to on a long drive, and it certainly won't get you in the mood to go out, but it will take you on a trip to the edge of dreamland -- and you'll enjoy the ride.



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