Bathed as we are in easily digestible content across multiple streaming platforms, it’s easy to forget that some artists work best within entire albums. I’ve found Fischerspooner to be one of these bands. While their hit single Emerge back in 2001 (oh god I’m old) absolutely floored me and introduced me to the world of electroclash, I remember struggling to get much else out of the album #1. Years went by, Odyssey came out, and this time their sound clicked with me. I returned to #1 and found every song was a joy. I guess what I’m saying is Fischerspooner demand multiple listens and their latest album SIR is no different.
SIR absolutely lit me up. I must have listened to it ten times in two days and while it’s certainly the best album I’ve heard this year, I think it may be the most exciting album Fischerspooner have ever made. Is there anything as immediate as Emerge from their debut or anything as catchy as Kick in the Teeth on this new album? On the first few listens I wasn’t too sure. That said, nearly ten years (!) have passed since the last record and it’s been a while since I’ve been confronted by something as deliberately difficult as this.
Having learned that Michael Stipe (ex-R.E.M.) produced the record I was almost expecting more commercial arrangements but it’s anything but. Different songs echo other artists or themes while never sounding anything less than Fischerspooner. Often the clattering big beats, fuzzy synths, and the urgent, almost dangerous, pop vocals coupled with razor-sharp production overwhelms. It just doesn’t sound like anything you hear these days. Oh sure, it’s retro as hell, but it subverts this through crisp stutterings and sputterings of digital cacophony. The first single Have Fun Tonight is probably the closest to a straight-forward single yet and even that needs a listen or two before it fully beds in.
I’m glad in many ways that Fischerspooner have a legacy of delivering f**ked-up weird pop albums in their catalogue otherwise you could be forgiven for thinking “Michael Stipe has gone nuts!”; just listen as chops and stitches every layer of each song into a frenzied feverish kaleidoscope of oddness. New single Togetherness is a wonderful journey through a Silent Hill atmosphere while personal favourite Strut sounds like the Pet Shop Boys having ended up at a despicable S&M orgy and made a mess of themselves. The middle section of Discreet almost collapses as it’s layers are clipped and stuttered till it almost ends up as witch house and then there’s the deliriously titled Butterscotch Goddam, which has an entire verse that’s just rhythmic breathing that somehow sounds so much better than how I’ve just described it.
The second single and second track on the record TopBrazil will definitely be appearing on my Songs of 2018. It’s a lightning rod of ideas that manages to swim through a staccato pre-chorus into a nu-rave horn synth smeared chorus via a Depeche Mode-esque vocal. Often you’re left thinking “if you hadn’t messed around with this as much this would be a huge hit” but Fischerspooner have, rightly, never given a toss about that. Like with Radiohead and many others, the delight comes from the melodies emerging out of several listens. It’s an album I’m in love with and each new listen rewards the listener further.
SIR is out on Ultra on Friday 16th February 2018.
Photos courtesy of Jesus Ugalde and Ultra.