Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Record label: Kanine Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Experimental Rock
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted. I want you to notice that he did not say, it is best for me…” So begins the anonymous sample that opens Fear of Men’s “Mosaic,” a tale of the ambiguous relationship between brokenness and safety. It’s a reference to Psalms, but for the moment, we’ll let that pass to ask: what is an affliction? Even unmoored from the passage above, the word itself has a Biblical tone.
"We are always in the evening" begins "Doldrums," a three-minute work of catchy but haunted pop by U.K. indie quartet Fear of Men. This slight lyric, while almost evasive in its ambiguity, manages to set the tone perfectly for the group's unique approach, equal parts understated pop hooks, 4AD styled shrouds of mystery, and art school dropout existential pondering.
The first thing that enters my head on listening to Fear of Men’s Early Fragments, apart from the realization that I’m lost in some sort of dream world, is just how listenable they are. Throughout, Jessica Weiss’ trademark mermaid-vocal washes wistfully over Dan Falvey’s interesting indie-pop guitar to create a blissful and hazy atmosphere. It’s the type of perfect coupling that’s rarely heard outside of The Smiths’ records.
Brighton’s Fear Of Men are more sinister than their breezy Cranberries-pop sound and saintly vocals are letting on. Formed in 2010, a trickle of singles later the quartet stand as an intriguing indie-pop prospect, thanks to the avalanche of subtle touches that lift up their dreamy nocturnes. Spooky coos and oohs flicker on a backdrop of guitarist Daniel Falvey’s ’90s guitar jangles, Proustian lyrics about death and decay sit almost unnoticed amid their juggernaut pop hooks, and there’s even subtle humour: the video for ‘Seer’, the opening track on this story-so-far collection of songs, has a laugh at their buzz-band status by packing off singer Jessica Weiss to a bee sanctuary.
I never got Morrissey’s shtick. It seems to me that boredom is one of those emotions that is almost impossible to telegraph successfully in a pop song. Now I know, there’s a legion of Smiths fans out there ready to call foul, but they aren’t writing this review. In my opinion, if you’re so bored, best keep it to yourself because the desire to communicate should really spring from an actual desire, the antithesis of not caring.
There are obvious reasons to love SXSW, but the massive music festival has some subtler wrinkles to admire, as well. Sure, it’s great for those with golden tickets that Brighton indie pop outfit Fear of Men are making their first live stops in the U.S.; as if that pot needed sweetening, gaining momentum for those shows means American fans get to snap up a new release of their previously UK-only singles. Fear of Men get added exposure, and fans get a snazzy physical encapsulation of the singles they’ve loved streaming.
Back in 2011, indie pop saw a sudden and sharp resurgence, with Veronica Falls serving as the spearheads of the movement. And amongst all the hype, bloggers leapt upon Brighton/London four-piece, Fear Of Men. A few months later, debut single ‘Ritual Confession’ was released via the popular Italian Beach Babes label, and they’ve been rewarding us with a steady trickle of enduring singles ever since.It’s that which brings us to the appropriately-named ‘Early Fragments’, a collection of singles drawing a line under their work until this point, a release aimed at their growing North American fan base.