‘When bands have tight, harmonious vocals, reviewers, and press releases, like to point it out. I like to point out that being able to sing in harmony should be the least of your fucking tricks if you making music like this‘ says Dara Higgins, not unreasonably.
The debut release form Leeds two hander Fossil Collective features Dave Fendick and Johnny Hooker once of the weirdly monikered Vib Gyor, whose emotive, non-league stadium rock has been stripped back and made less verbose and needy here. Despite the pretension of the unsubtle guitars and wrenching vocals, you’re not going to knock Coldplay, or even The Script, off their mantle being called Vib Gyor, are you?
Fossil Collective are a subtle blend of harmonious melodies, rock-folk numbers, mournful piano kneads and keening vocals. ‘Let It Go’ kicks it off, bringing to the fore the acoustic guitar and voice straight from the off. Throughout the tune we’re introduced to the elements that will be the main players in this collection, the voice, the solid drumming, rolling piano and, like a tuile atop some delicate confection, the waves of vocal harmonies. ‘Under My Arrest’, is a lower tempo number, with a lovely, lilting chorus, marrying Fendick’s gossamer singing with a violin. It misses the chance to make the snare really pound and take it to another level but it’s a minor complaint.
‘Boy With A Blackbird Kite’ starts out with the floaty harmonies which are woven throughout the fabric of the album. Slight aside on the nature of vocal harmonies: Vocal harmonies are all the rage now, because the Fleet Foxes invented them a few years ago. Fact is, they’ve been all the rage since people realised they could sing a few thousand years ago. I suppose we forgot that because everyone was listening to Oasis and drinking LCL pils and we forgot that Crosby Stills and Nash or Simon and Garfunkel were a thing forty years ago. When bands have tight, harmonious vocals, reviewers, and press releases, like to point it out. I like to point out that being able to sing in harmony should be the least of your fucking tricks if you making music like this. Fossil Collective are good at these harmonies, as they should be. They aren’t gratingly the centre of attention, and add flourish here and there. Let’s not refer to them again.
Dave Fendrick vocalises like a Thom Yorke, as Thom used to warble on the less memorable tracks from The Bends, but with a softer, less caustic sound. Radiohead don’t play songs like this anymore, they’ve got more avant garde fish to disassemble, but if you’ve been throwing everything since Kid A in the bin in a puce funk over their stubborn refusal to ape ‘High And Dry’ til the cash registers come home, you may find succour in here. At times the falsetto yearns like Bon Ivor. Man, didn’t that get dull pretty quick, that whole Bon Ivor thing? Well, I suppose there’s always someone somewhere breaking up with somebody, so there’ll always be that niche. I say niche, but it’s a niche as big as the Grandest of Canyons. However, to be fair to FC, Johnny Hooker’s drumming keeps the pace up, without necessarily ever really needing to break a sweat. On ‘Wolves’ he grooves like Mick Fleetwood. He may even be everso slightly out of breath after ‘On and On’, as uptempo as it gets, and a decent Midlake facsimile, if we’re being facile.
The stripped back and lovely ‘How Was I to Know’ ushers us out the door, with a polite clearing of its throat. This is comfortable listening, well played, never too arch. There’s something familiar and easy going about the record, and the vocals rarely veer from the mean so that we’re never drawn too far off course, or left confused at some unforeseen turn. At times it slows down, ‘Monument’ is drowsy and weepy-string infused, but the album never bounds along, doesn’t get bogged down in dynamic intricacies. All the attention is on the craft of the song and the playing therein. It’s decent in that regard, sounding good, well played, well written, but maybe a little clean cut. At times you wish the fucker would bite your hand, but then, those relationships never last, do they?