Extroverted instruments and introverted vocals clash on II.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking with artists throughout the years, it’s that most creatives hate genres. They can restrict bands to certain camps they don’t necessarily associate themselves with, and can give the audience the wrong first impression if they’re not picked carefully. So it’s always worrying to find a band who have self-prescribed themselves a genre, even if it’s a completely original one.
The Fontaines (not to be confused with the band we’ve covered previously) dub themselves as a ‘New-Wop’ band, the result of a myriad of influences channelled through a 50’s-crooner aesthetic. The sound on second EP II, however, shows something a lot harsher than the band give themselves credit for. The opener, Cold, bursts in with the siren wails of Hank Fontaine’s guitars and a crashing rhythm section, more reminiscent of the anarcho-cacophony of Melt Banana or Pavement than the subdued music hall stylings that occupy the verses.
This seems to be a problem that persists throughout the EP. High-energy music and subdued vocals often have to compromise to fit each other into the equation, and it doesn’t always work. This is especially prevalent on ‘Please, Say Something’, an easy and laid-back little number that knocks the wind out of the tracks around it.
The thing that really lets these tracks down however is the mix. The vocals are pushed too far forward and lack the glossy production quality that lead singer Charlotte Fontaine’s voice deserves, drums that should be sharp and snappy sound stodgy, bleeding together with the bass and making the guitar sound like it’s from a completely different master. It’s a shame, because this is an interesting little collection of tracks that shows a band with potential. Reaching that potential, however, could be helped by dropping the pretense.
The Fontaines will release their second EP, ‘II’ on June 24th 2016.