Mighty Fairly | Big Words and Power Chords (s/r)

cd_mighty-fairly.jpgThe album packs the vibe of an overzealous, can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other, newly-in-love couple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The place of brains in rock music is a topic ripe for debate. But eventually the pontificating must stop, and even the most Robert Fripp among us are driven to stop intellectualizing, yell "Shut up, brain!" and simply rock out. It’s a fine line. Mighty Fairly tread this dental floss-thin divider with every note they play. They throw out moments where their willingness to simply do what they feel is beyond liberating; at the same time, their music can come off as poorly thought out and overly simplistic.

Mighty Fairly initially resemble a lobotomized Idlewild, fronted by a not unpleasant chain store Roddy Woomble. The presentation is eminently affable and therefore difficult to disparage, but it often feels stripped clean of any attendant poetic spirit. These guys and gals present themselves as blissfully unaware of and unfettered by the greater worries and metaphysical pressures of the universe, which makes them a fine piper when you want to forget your stresses, but maddening and superficial when you want something deeper. Big Words and Power Chords tries hard to retain musical interest. There’s a tantalizing hint of the New Pornographers’ hyperactive power pop and male/female vocal interplay, but, well, less witty. This means a handful of songs, such as "Closer to End," are a bit too cutesy at times, cramming handclaps, trotting melodies, cloying female backing vocals, and repeated lyrical references to email and texting (!) into a three-and-a-half-minute frame. Just when you think it’s out of their system, they’re back it again with "Simple Minded."

But just as fatigue threatens to set in, subtle charms begin to reveal themselves. "Live for Love" uses a jaunty acoustic guitar strum, strong melodic twists and razor-sharp harmonies to form the backbone of a gentle, seemingly basic but illuminating pat on the shoulder that declares "this ain’t the only love you’ll ever find." It’s disarmingly moving and highly comforting. "Alaska" gets your ears to perk up and take notice with fuzzed out alt-rock guitar and tight vocal harmonies. "Falling to Pieces" and "Overachiever" serve up a massive treat: possibly the world’s best ever unironic keytar work. "Left You a Ruin" mercifully lets the guard down, closing the album in intimate, tender fashion. It’s what you whisper to your lover or best friend when the bravado-filled din of a night out has subsided, and everyone else at the table has gotten up to head to the bar.

So much of the album is packed with similar sensations; it packs the vibe of an overzealous, can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other, newly-in-love couple. It’s simultaneously heartwarming and nauseating—you feel happy for them, but also the concurrent twinge of bitter jealousy and disgust. It’s just about Mighty Fairly’s defining trait: They seem to have figured out how to make every other song sound like a revelation before reverting to stock structures with the next track.

Big Words and Power Chords is a bit of a misnomer: It’s got the latter in spades, but precious little of the former. It’s annoyingly erratic, the record equivalent of a car you love to drive but one that has an unfortunate habit of stalling and dying at four-way stops. It’s replete with the endearing enthusiasm—and underachieving limitations—of your buddy’s band that drinks beer and practices in the basement on weekends. While Mighty Fairly tend to frustrate, ultimately it’s nearly impossible to rag too much on anyone who sounds like they’re having this much fun. C | Mike Rengel

RIYL: A far less self-consciously wordy New Pornographers; keytars!; Teenage Fanclub before they went pastoral; Idlewild without the English Lit degree.

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