Those who are familiar with Cold War Kids could be forgiven for perceiving French Style Furs as a mere side project or experimental directional deviation from a trio who are about as distinctive as it gets.
And as the LP opens and flows, carried by the unmistakable vocal of Nathan Willett, it is indeed easy to see just why this is a trap which is easy to fall into. But venturing forth with preconceptions is as natural as the tide given the fact that Willett is a unique and established writer and vocalist. And in a somewhat roundabout way, these preconceptions serve to highlight quite a startling diversity when it comes to Is Exotic Bait, as perhaps your senses were taking you down a different road altogether.
So what’s different? Well, perhaps French Style Furs is experimental – but a side project it is not!
The exploration of uncharted territory is the order of the day when it comes to this perfectly sized ten track LP. The album’s direction is inspired by the poetry of Thomas Merton – a mystic who wrote about social justice, pacifism and Eastern religion. The result is a lyrical range born from the purest of human creativity and which lends itself to both the most subtle of deliveries as well as the most powerful, percussion based sounds. The upshot is an album which is both colourful and diverse – a joy to behold.
An impressive array of guest musicians and vocalists elevate that diversity through thick layers of harmonic perfection which are infused with a huge hint of mystic charm.
All The Way Down is the perfect illustration. Packed full of light, the track is a high energy explosion. Willett knows exactly how to use his lyrical tone, and here he is not afraid to explore a range of tempos. The vocal is masculine, as are the harmonies. When the keyboard takes hold it verges upon the anthemic. Three quarters of the way through we get the drop in tone – this facilitates those rich, soulful and welcoming bass lines before the track takes off once again – now refueled by an invigoration of the aforementioned colourful energy.
(World In My) Bloodstream is another fine example of how tempo and tone changes should be explored. In terms of your musical diet this track is a case of ‘everything in moderation’. Heavy percussion forming the foundation over which flows the effortless vocal and seamless guitar tones. This song is gloriously catchy – my advice?….. Play it loud!
Solitary Life is one of those ‘perfect for any occasion’ tracks – you just want to play it on repeat. Funk-like bass intertwined with jazz-like brass – a winning combination if ever there was one. And here we have a track which is the perfect platform for just such a combination. Indeed, the track sums up the album in a nutshell.
Is Exotic Bait is every bit the inward looking excursion you may have expected. But rather than you exploring it – it will explore you… If you know what I mean?
The surprise here comes in the form of an entirely new direction. One which you simply do not expect given those all too natural aforementioned preconceptions. An album packed with a colourful warmth yet with a mean, attention seeking streak. Wonderfully heavy, yet quite brilliantly subtle, if Is Exotic Bait is an excursion, it is set to one hell of a soundtrack.
Sideline project indeed!?