Aug 17, 2012 Web Exclusive
Yeasayer's third and arguably best LP Fragrant World kicks off with "Fingers Never Bleed." The diatribe on the money-mongering and unrepentant greed fueled by manipulating numbers and bilking proletariats out of their pensions by hedge fund managers and Wall Street mavens sets the tone for the rest of this magnificent record. It stomps along like a machine, one oiled by blood, evoking the future dread of classic sci-fi films such as Soylent Green, Blade Runner, and Escape from New York, and that's exactly what Yeasayer largely rail against and simultaneously revel in throughout the album.
The songs throughout Fragrant World are arrestingly forward-thinking without shying away from invoking music's rich pageantry. Frontman Chris Keating described the album to Under the Radar as "Blade Runner across 110th Street," a sly reference to Bobby Womack's 1972 hit single. And indeed, these numbers exude an ample boogie-down prowess while sounding squarely in the here and now.
There's also some wit to leaven the often grave subject matter. For example, "Reagan's Skeleton" simultaneously excoriates Republicans for exhuming the dead ex-president, while imagining him in Michael Jackson's Thriller video, with a cadre of neo-cons dancing around his apparition, conflating his deification with the use of satellite drone missiles.
Co-frontman Anand Wilder in particular has elevated his songwriting to a rare level, particularly on the sublime "Folk Hero Schtick." It begins as a lo-fi, clicky number that sounds like a detuned radio, not dissimilar to early Pavement or Sebadoh, before metamorphosing into a gorgeous groove-driven jangle number belying a sinister lyrical commentary on the ephemeral, hollow nature of fame. Its style oscillates, hopscotching schizophrenically in a manner akin to some of the ADD moments of Beck's Odelay, yet it coheres into perhaps his greatest accomplishment.
Multi-instrumentalist Ira Wolf Tuton is the band's secret weapon throughout, lending adroit melodic flourishes and an astonishing production acumen. One wonders what the album would sound like without his adept command of both obscure and well-known pop music, yet another dichotomy that renders Yeasayer's sound so compelling.
On the primal, guttural throb of "Demon Road," Keating waxes downbeat, urging "All hell is gonna break loose," which is something of a mantra for this epochal record. Yet he doesn't sound afraid, just resigned, realizing that what's just around the corner might not be as terrifying as our society's been conditioned to believe.
Keating has suggested that the title Fragrant World is an acerbic reference to "the dystopian lack of flavor in our dystopian world." And Yeasayer capture this seemingly ineffable fear, dread, and paranoia with wide-eyed clarity throughout this astounding album. (www.yeasayer.net)
Author rating: 9/10
Average reader rating: 8/10