We are all Fragile Creatures. This could be the rallying call for a band that has been flirting on the edges of the Brighton scene for a while now. But thanks to the word-of-mouth and social media explosion of their Stowaways song, these fragile creatures look set to take it further with …And Other Wild Things, a debut album that showcases their love of eclectic, melodic and sophisticated pop and rock, story-telling lyrics, and tight harmonies.
There is something undeniably old school about the band; their sound often evokes in spirit the golden pop era of the late 60s through to the early 80s when acts like The Beatles, 10cc, Supertramp and Squeeze took pop music to the highest skill levels, given the restraint of the song format (ie, usually no more than four minutes). With these bands, superb musicianship was a given (rather than an idle muso boast), along with an ability to craft melody-rich songs that usually spoke of the human experience in narrative terms, sometimes wry and funny, sometimes poignant and heavy-hearted, but rarely dealing with opaque poetry ramblings that has been a derisory feature of much modern ‘indie’ music. They also draw a little on the new wave spirit of The Clash, The Specials and The Jam, as well as noughties retro acts such as The Feeling.
Fragile Creatures songwriters Adam Kidd and Aaron Neville have corralled their respective loves and influences in fashioning something familiar, and yet fresh and original. Largely recorded in Bath, with a couple of tracks done at Brighton Electric Studios …And Other Wild Things is a pop album, first and foremost, but with an indie rock edge, that features themes of human stupidity and inaction, but also many tales of triumphs against the odds. It speaks of the resilient human spirit, but with an emphasis on our fragility and escapist tendencies; us and them, me and the world. Tracks such as the terrific ‘Leave it Alone’, a song that incorporates uplifting organ keys, big chords, great guitar work, close harmonies and driving drums: “If your heart isn’t in it, man, maybe you should go. I don’t know what the future holds any more, but I can’t leave it alone”. And then there’s ‘Stowaways’, another hugely infectious slice of timeless pop, the voices soaring and passionate as Kidd and Neville sing of wishing to get away from a degrading and corrupt planet. “Everybody’s talking about the end of the world, just like it’s yesterday’s news, and there’s nothing we can do about it at all, so we run away.” Similarly, the upbeat 70s vibes of ‘Into The Night’ is about wanting to get away from it all. It’s nostalgic, a little bit old school, but unabashedly so, where melody, song craft and heartfelt passion easily trump any possible suspicions of parody or retro chic. Beneath the often jaunty pop, there often lurks a more troubled mind. Indeed, like all truly great pop music has.
Ska and reggae rhythms figure here and there also, for instance on the theatrical album opener, ‘Ready To Go’, and the slower, dub-inflected ‘The Chemicals’, a song about courtship, the mishaps, and the mixed feelings that it entails… those darn chemicals! And on the frantic and dark ska-carnivalesque-glam of ‘You Don’t Get It’, the band again hit their stride: “I gave my heart and soul for the love of rock’n’roll, I thought that you should know,” sings Kidd, appropriately aided by some blistering guitar work.
Elsewhere, they deal in more earnest soft-rock fare, such as the insanely catchy ‘Mess We’re In’, complete with some pleasurable ‘Whoa-oh’s’, before segueing into the equally MOR terrain of ‘Poison Apple’, which is replicated on the more noirish ‘Body In The Boot’. Again the lyrical sentiments are delivered in a playful manner and in deceptively wry tones, gently cloaked in metaphor “living in a fantasy, trapped in a dream”, with added harmonies reminiscent of Tilbrook and Difford. Album closers, the bouncy country-rock tones of ‘One Bit Of A Time’, and the stripped back sad acoustica of ‘Grace’ show what a fantastically varied band Fragile Creatures are, almost invariably succeeding in whatever takes their fancy.
Now that we are finally beginning to see the end of the nauseatingly optimistic Big Society lyricism of Mumford & Sons et al, and with the world continuing to teeter precariously on the precipice of environmental, social and economic disaster, it would be no surprise at all to see a band like this lead the charge to a greater understanding of ourselves, fragile creatures one and all, albeit delivering their music wrapped up in the warming textures and tones of harmless rock’n’roll, in all it’s multifarious glories.