Release Date: 7 Jan 2023
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Like Messa, it's difficult to slap a genre on what Finite Fidelity do, though they're clearly playing in alternative rock as a base. They hail from Austin, Texas and I believe that this is their debut album, but they feel like they're veterans. Sure, the band was started at Austin School of Music and two of the four band members work in a music store, but t seems like they've been playing together this way forever and they've only now got round to putting down what they do on an album.
There's plenty of alternative rock on the opener, Yellow Sky, but it's far from alone. There's some older school rock 'n' roll in that one too, along with pop and rock, some progressive breaks and a surprising shift shift higher in the register of vocalist Scott Blanco. There's a little Spanish guitar too, but it's played on what sounds like a surf guitar instead. It's interesting and imaginative and if I was forced into citing just one band as an obvious comparison, I'd spring for Cake. While this is happy in shimmying into all sorts of wild directions, they're probably the most obvious influence throughout.
Hollow is funkier. There are moments that remind of the Red Hot Chili Peppers but there are Lenny Kravitz moments too and Beatles moments and others, while the song as a whole doesn't sound like any of them. There's punk towards the end and even a sort of college rock take on rockabilly, which is an unlikely combination that makes it another fascinating song. It's surely one of my favourites here, though this isn't the sort of album with clear standouts. These songs are coherent together but they explore such an array of approaches that which shine the most will likely always be due to personal connection over critical gimmes.
Merchant brings in some Tool and some world music elements, though it's far from as intricate as Tool. There's certainly a progressive element to what the band does, especially if you listen afresh with that firmly in mind, but it never serves as the focus, so it's not prog rock, it's just alternative rock that happens to be more progressive than usual.
Ghost is post-punk: a little Buzzcocks, a little Blondie and plenty more Cake. There's a psychedelic rock vibe on Mirage, which is a fascinating addition to the sound, especially as the versatility that is the most obvious constant suddenly reminds of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Las Armas en Flor reminds of the Clash, including some of the ethnic flavour they moved into later into their careers. There's more Red Hot Chili Peppers on Unabridged, but more Cake as well. They're never too far away.
And that's a lot of different flavours on one album, with more on the various other tracks that I'm not going to mention individually, but it never feels schizophrenic, like a band like Mr. Bungle can. Finite Fidelity always feels like musicians who really enjoy playing music each threw a solid stack of influences into a bucket, shook it up and collectively jammed on whatever they pulled out of that bucket in the morning. I like that idea. It means that this is commercially viable music but without commercial viability ever seeming like it was the point. I'm sure that these four musicians, with a day job each, wouldn't turn down success but it feels like they're here to play first and foremost.
They're almost a human equivalent to the material they play, in that, like these songs, they are all similarly capable and coherent when put together but they constantly shift the direction that the larger picture takes. Scott Blanco and Ryan Monahan are the founding members, the former as a vocalist and guitarist combo and the latter the drummer. Tim Moen joined soon after on bass and the new fish is Ian C.G. on a second guitar. They're a good band who play good and notably original songs, but I think it's their combination of relaxed confidence and infectious enthusiasm that gets through to me the most. I hope it's just the first of many albums to come.
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