Fur Trade – [Album]

Saturday, 13 July 2013

What exactly is so wrong with cliche that it makes everyone who works in the music business (be they musician, critic, publicist or whatever) cringe when someone acknowledges its presence on a new record? Contrary to popular belief, cliche can be a handy tool in the pop idiom; in the right hands, it can act as a perfect way to access a sound and let an artist manipulate it – they could even make it sound fresh and vital again – but they can also put it down again without consequence because – hey! – it's just a cliche.

Simply said, a master of musical cliche can do whatever the hell he wants – what a great feeling of freedom that must be.

That sense of freedom is clearly apparent in listening to Steve Bays' side project away from Hot Hot Heat, Fur Trade. On Don't Get Heavy (the band's debut full-length record), Bays and former HHH cohort Parker Bossley abandon the rockier side of the sounds they'd previously established and dive headlong into a more distinctly synth-driven sound which is inextricably linked to the kind of poppy yacht-rock that some listeners (if they're old enough) might remember being subjected to in the Eighties. At first, listeners will be flat-out shocked and maybe bowled over by the sound presented by the album's title track (which opens the record) as it fades in; the combination of the wall of synthesizers and the eerily emotion-free but very pleasantly melodic vocal feels a little disquieting at first, but (at least to this critic's ears) the song quickly becomes a bit hypnotic, in its own way, because it's a little retro and a bit of an update on that retro sound. It's impossible to turn away from – because of that.

Bays and Bossley keep the warm (some detractors will say, “tepid”) vibes and sheets of synthesizers rolling through songs like “Voyager,” “Same Temptation,” “In Between Dreams" (where both members of the band successfully manage to make what they've written sound like canned music) and “Burning The Locals,” and listeners may find they're hooked thanks to the novelty of the sounds in each as well as the novelty of the project, but the real standout tracks (most notably “Glory Daze,” Praying To The Lottery Ticket God” and the deceptively short “Acid Summer”) perfectly balance the Eighties yacht-rock vibes with the obvious senses of wit and irony that Hot Hot Heat has always worn proudly on its sleeve. That isn't to say that every fan of Hot Hot Heat will like Fur Trade (in fact, it's safe to assume that some HHH fans will absolutely hate Don't Get Heavy), but it would be easy to contend that Don't Get Heavy could mark the beginning of a parallel career for Bays; if he decides to keep it going. If not, Don't Get Heavy will be the interesting little blip on Bays' resumé which some listeners will adore, and others simply won't understand. It will be interesting to see how long and how far the project continues.


Fur Trade – Don't Get Heavy – “Voyager” – [mp3]
Fur Trade – Don't Get Heavy – “Kids These Days” – [mp3]


Don't Get Heavy
will be released on July 23, 2013 by Last Gang Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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