fun.ny how things change: a Shakespearean plot twist
Gabriela Leskur | Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Here ye, here ye. I come to proclaim the gospel according to fun.
Oh, ye folk doth not know of what I am speaking? Hath your ears not bled from the overplaying of the little ditty “We are Young?”
Doth that freshen your memory?
Ah, I knew ye hath heard such a tune as you rode your Chevy Impala across the wilderness that is downtown South Bend.
Yet, have no fear, for I bring the good news – the minstrels of the band fun. are more than they appear. They possess substance and spark, a talent to be lauded. They exist within a new age of hip hop and pop, in which I no longer need speak as if I am of ages long past.
Why then, you ask, is my syntax so Shakespearean? Because, damsels and knights, we have on our hands a switcheroo not too unlike the unexpected plot twist at the climax of a Shakespearean tragedy!
The Case at Hand
The band fun. probably came onto your radar screen with their sensation, “We are Young,” and later with “Carry On” and “Some Nights.” The hit singles all came off of their new album, “Some Nights.”
As a true and blue fan of fun. I am here to alert you that indeed, before these songs, the band was already fairly successful and had already produced a gem with their first album.
Although both albums are phenomenal in their own right, there is a large discrepancy: these two albums are absolutely nothing alike. Perhaps they’re a little similar, but the difference is nonetheless startling.
It’s like listening to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” and thinking, “Oh what a nice little country singer.” Then the next moment you’re having your mind blown with “I Knew You Were Trouble” and exclaiming in your perplexed state, “Taylor Swift? Dub-step?”
That, my dear friends, is how I felt when comparing “The Gambler” from fun.’s first album and “It Gets Better” from their second album – the difference was that unsettling. Let me try to explain to you how listening to these two albums left me feeling confused and yet, somehow, content.
“Aim and Ignite”
Fun.’s first album, released in 2009, definitely gets high marks for heart and wit, demanding acknowledgement from critics. What made this album stand out was fun.’s willingness to take risks with many different genres, instruments, and styles.
For example, “Be Calm” manages to be both whimsical and dark, much like the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The song starts off with a whining accordion before the breathy vocals break through and steal the spotlight. Violins and flutes seamlessly mix with guitar and symbols. Lead singer Nate Russ appears unafraid to use his voice like a synthesizer, allowing both his strengths and weaknesses to convey varying emotion.
“All The Pretty Girls” inspires a very different feeling, forcing me to stop writing for a moment and dance around the basement of Farley Hall. Although I sometimes receive weird looks during these dance breaks, if you listen to this song you will understand why such an action is warranted. “All the Pretty Girls” is very reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ in that you cannot listen to it without imagining the warm summer sun, rolling waves, and sand between your toes.
“Benson Hedges” begins with a triumphant chorus singing the Holy Ghost, not too unlike a showy Gospel choir. Somehow, the choral ode flows naturally into upbeat rock anthem with lyrics depicting a spiritual struggle.
However, the entire album isn’t perfect. For example, “I Wanna Be the One” is a little too much like running through a field of daises, but for no apparent reason. Joyful trumpets and the like gleam throughout, but the lyrics are uninspiring. I always hit next when it comes on.
Overall, the sound of their first album is risky and riveting. However, at the times, their sound can feel somewhat muted. The strength of this album is truly the stand out pieces that defy genre. Though I enjoy them, I can understand why some may find the other songs on the album lacking, since they don’t include the typical catchy hook expected of number one hits.
Part of what makes “Some Nights” so different from the first album is the prevalent hip-hop elements. Where “Aim and Ignite” dabbled in piano and accordion solos, “Some Nights,” released last year, utilizes electronic beats and synthesizers.
The songs for which the album is titled, “Some Nights” and “Some Nights Intro,” exemplify the album as a whole. “Some Nights Intro” has a lot of similarities to Queen, with ghoulish whoops and eerie sounds – more akin to a musical theater tune than a typical pop song. “Some Nights,” on the other hand, takes on a tribal feel – with a hint of folk rock. Quite adventurous, indeed.
“All Alone” perfectly displays the band’s shift from the first album. Screeching records and heavy beats, as well as assistance from drum machine, create a decidedly different experience. Yet, this song in particularly is pretty successful.
Not all of their ventures into hip-hop inspired songs are effective, though. I find myself wondering exactly what is going on in “It Gets Better.” Where fun. once had been the epitome of exciting melodies and impressive vocals in their “Aim and Ignite” album, “It Gets Better” is anything but better. “It Gets Better” meshes odd distorted whiney vocals with a cheesy synthesizer. Also, “Stars” is a little all over the place. I honestly have never made it more than a minute or so into the song without becoming annoyed and hastily switching to something else.
However, the album has high points with hidden gems like the marching tempo and soulful lyrics of “Out on the Town,” the tasteful lamenting in “Why Am I the One?” and a subtle return to piano throughout the thoughtful tune “All Alright.”
Fun.ny, I Hardly Knew You
Just as I was beginning to fall in love with the calm quirky sound of fun. as displayed in “Aim and Ignite,” suddenly, my beloved band underwent a metamorphosis with the effervescent, high energy beats in “Some Nights.” Though at first I felt overwhelmed by the pangs of lost love, I was eventually was wooed by the new vigor in their second album.
Perhaps the change isn’t so tragic after all. Although I still enjoy their first album, I’ve grown to love their second one as well. I recommend you make a playlist of both albums and listen to them on repeat for at least a day.
Okay, yes, I admit at first I was skeptical about their second album and their new sound.
“Ye of little faith,” right?
But with more time spent with both of fun.’s albums, I do have faith that they will continue to impress and surprise me in the years to come.
Contact Gabriela Leskur at [email protected]
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.