Music: Leaving My Empire by Fred * * * *
Fred are a Cork band who have been doing the rounds since the late 90s. Their brand of catchy guitar rock enjoys quite a following on Leeside, but the group have largely failed to interest either the Dublin-based media or music aficionados in the rest of the country.
A shame really, as their 2008 single Skyscrapers should have been the soundtrack of that summer.
This, their fourth album, could well be the one to make those not living in the People's Republic take notice. Recorded in Montreal with respected producer and one-time Arcade Fire drummer Howard Bilerman on production, this is a sprawling, ambitious and frequently intoxicating album that, in places, recalls the widescreen vision of Arcade Fire and compatriots Stars and Broken Social Scene.
The default setting is unashamedly epic -- but the huge sound is not employed to paper over cracks. The bones of good songs can easily be discerned and the group's ear for melody is richly apparent. All those years toiling in the margins have clearly not hampered the ability of Joseph O'Leary and friends to deliver a batch of fantastic songs.
Fears and Remedies illustrates just what a potent new direction the band have taken. It starts in a deceptively simple manner before dissolving into a euphoric multi-voice chorus augmented by brass and strings that recalls Sufjan Stevens in full flight.
Existing fans might find it hard to reconcile the band's new sound with the straight-up power-pop of predecessor Go God Go, but anyone who enjoys their music with a large dollop of melodrama and pomp will find much to occupy them here.
Step right up Eleven and Stereoscope -- a pair of songs seemingly tailor-made for the festival circuit. And there are moments where the band channel experimental-era Beach Boys -- always a good thing to try.
Not everything works, mind you, and it's hard to deny that some of the songs are just a little over-wrought. For the most part, though, this is the sound of a band upping its game.
Burn it: Fears and Remedies; The Life Behind
Day & Night