Release Date: Sep 29, 2009
Record label: Iamsound
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, World
Vampire Weekend aren't the only band making African highlife music the unlikely heartbeat of indie pop. A Los Angeles 12-piece including former members of We Are Scientists and the Fall, Fool's Gold sound something like an Afrobeat Talking Heads. Where Vampire Weekend sound like indie musicians who have embraced African music, Fool's Gold's leader Lewis Pesacov grew up listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as well as US pop, and his band's uplifting sound vibrates with love and kinship with the continent's music.
The furious and unfortunate dissection of authenticity that came part and parcel with the rise of Vampire Weekend made for good copy-- for all of two weeks. It quickly became a groaner. But it persists as that band's profile grows. And so now any band that follows and is sufficiently infused with Afropop influence-- sunny guitar, rattles, djembe, etc.-- carries the burden of comparison, derision, and, for shame, trend-humping.
Fool’s Gold, the side project of Foreign Born hombre numero uno Lewis Pesacov, has too many things going for it to keep it as a side project for long. For one, Fool’s Gold are all about Afro-pop, which, as anyone with an RSS full of remixes that can only be described as “tropical” can tell you, is hot shit right now. Second, they have a guy (Luke Top) who sings in Hebrew throughout most of the album.
Fool’s Gold are truly a quintessential Los Angeles band. Their members' reach extends from Lewis Pesacov’s Foreign Born to Luke Top’s eponymous band, all the way to the Brad Caulkins playing in Jail Weddings and Jimmy Vincent’s 1,000 bands – you can hardly play connect the dots with L.A. musicians and not hit someone associated with Fool’s Gold on your first try.
Like a west coast [a]Vampire Weekend[/a], this 12-piece LA group are in thrall to the potential of blending the sounds of Africa and beyond with a glossy and polite American pop sheen. It’s tempting, then, to see their moniker as a cheap attempt to deflect accusations that they’re pilfering colonialists raiding far-off lands. For their eponymous debut is high-life reinterpreted with a synth-pop twist, the occasional flourish of saxophone and, curiously, lyrics sung in Hebrew.
This debut album belies its makers’ name by being a genuine gem. Paul Clarke 2010 With Vampire Weekend, Damon Albarn and The Ruby Suns all heading in a similar direction to Fool’s Gold, the pan-global pop highway has become increasingly busy recently. But where their fellow travellers try to squeeze international sounds into the constraints of standard pop songs, this Los Angeles collective seemingly have more in common with the African traffic coming the other way.