Fluke's eighth (tenth if you include the two best-ofs) album, and first official album release since 1997's Risotto. Released on August 11, 2003, possibly to have the album slip in just under the six-year mark. It's also their first release since Mike Tournier split from the group in 2002. For this album, Fluke consisted of Jon Fugler and Mike Bryant, with some help from Ron Aslan (drum programming), Andy Gray (production), Neil Davenport (guitar), and Margo Buchanan (backing vocals).
Lyrically and vocally, it's closer to Oto than anything else, but musically it's like a very gritty hard-house/hard trance version of Risotto. About half the songs are reworked from the versions on their 2000 demo album "The Xmas Demos", with the rest being either new work or edits of post-Risotto releases. It suffers the same "energy" problems that Risotto had - the first couple of tracks are the faster and arguably 'better" ones, with the rest of the album tapering off about a third of the way in. The other problem is that it's just not innovative enough for something that they've supposedly been working on for six years - okay, so one of them left to pursue a solo career, but they've still had tons of time to work on new stuff, and not just re-hash their old singles and demo tracks. Pulse / Pulsed, one of the best tracks they've made in the post-Risotto era, doesn't appear on the CD version of the album but for some reason appears as the third track on side A (of four) of the vinyl.
The CD itself is the usual masterpiece of art that I've come to expect from Fluke - the cover image is the aforementioned puppy, a 3D sculpture made out of glass beads glued together, on a beach (apparently inspired by a similar sculpture, only 50ft tall and made out of flowers, outside the Guggenheim Museum in New York). The cover booklet folds out to four times the size, and contains not only production information, but also the lyrics to all the songs (which is actually very useful, because Jon Fugler's accent and delivery produce some bizzare mondegreens if you don't know what he's really saying) and a cute picture of the cover puppy in a snowstorm on the reverse side. Sad girl in snow, Fluke-style!
The verdict? It's not all that bad, but considering the amount of time the band has had to work on it (even with the loss of Mike Tournier) it's slightly disappointing. It's worth buying if you can find it for a non-stupid price (if you can find it at all), but I'd also recommend that you find a copy of The Xmas Demos to listen to as well.
- Snapshot [4:09]
"little Suzie's cruisin' for some love and affection... arm in arm with everyone been charmin' the nation"
A fast, gritty song with Jon Fugler's trademark fast shouted-whisper vocals, and quite strangely, actual lyrical content. It seems to be mostly commentary on the political climate of the world today, or maybe about kids and drug usage (of course, I could be totally wrong, and the lyrics are just there because they integrate well). The music is a nice thumpy breakbeat with occasional siren noises.
- My spine [7:22]
"my head is spinning so my feet don't touch the ground my eyes is blinded by the light my hearin' deafened by the sound"
A funky dark house/pseudo-disco/trance number (in case you didn't notice, I have a genre differentiation problem) with some nice disco-ish vocals. If this doesn't appear as a single, I'm going to cry.
- Another kind of blues [4:37]
While having the same name as the track from The Xmas Demos, it's not even remotely the same song - in fact, it's yet another freaking remix of "Slap it". I was disappointed at first, as the "original" has great, non-cheap-sounding, female backing vocals (unlike pretty much all of their other female-vocal'd stuff), but it's actually quite a not bad song. It's harder and more progressive than the other recent mix, "Zion", from the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack, while being different enough to be interesting.
The reason that the original version of this song didn't appear on the album is quite possibly that Mike Tournier took the rights to the music with him when he left the group, while Jon Fugler retained the rights to the vocals. So, the vocals were rearranged into Blue sky, and Slap it was remixed into this song.
- Hang tough [5:28]
"hang tough... dream on... hang on..."
Fairly mellow, and closer to a "tech house" feel than anything else. The vocals (which take a background role) are laid back, like something off one of Risotto's slower tracks, and there's an actual guitar being played. The first single from the album.
- Switch / Twitch [9:33]
"all the love that you made, all the joy and the pain, all the anger and hate, rewind and erase..."
Back to the Risotto-style dance track. There's a piano sample in it that I vaguely recognise from one of their earlier songs, but I can't place it exactly. This is also the second single released off the album.
- YKK [6:45]
"new rules, new names, new ways, new games"
A slow, darker, Oto-type song. There's some parts that sound fairly similar to Orbital's cover of the Doctor Who theme, but it's otherwise quite ordinary.
- Expo [5:18]
Ron Aslan takes over the drum programming for the rest of the album at this point, and it's quite obvious - the beat is something vaguely like what Frank Klepacki would come up with if exposed to a sufficient amount of 80s pop. The "melody" also follows a poppy, 80s feel, but there's also some buzzing noises and phaser effects in there, so the song doesn't really end up all that upbeat. Overall, it's pretty damn nifty.
- Electric blue [6:34]
"out of love, out of fear, out of hate, out of here"
Ah, more actual real guitar. This track is actually quite guitar-oriented, with two or three kinds providing most of the individual pieces of the track. This track also shows off Alan Gray's production skills, by mixing in from the previous song so neatly that I didn't actually notice anything until about a minute and a half in.
- Baby pain [5:44]
"i'm meek and mild, baby, from head to toe... i've tried to be the best i can"
Another hard house number, with what sounds like a synth guitar and a tambourine. There's some vaguely annoying vocal samples in the background, but they're quite ignorable and don't detract from the actual lyrics too much.
- Nebulus [5:57]
A nifty, vaguely downbeat steel guitar (maybe even a filtered sitar), bass, and (maybe) bongo drum number that sounds almost like it's been played with real actual instruments. It rather unfortunately lacks the vocals that the Xmas version has, but there's a version of it on the Switch/Twitch single that has the Puppy-type music and the Xmas lyrics to it. I wish they'd used that version here and left the instrumental to the single.
- Blue sky [5:48]
"i can't breathe, i can't see, i can't be too good for me, i can't seem to find my feet now, somebody help me please"
After the dark-and-gloomy feel to the rest of the album, this track kind of makes me wonder if the band had just discovered a really good source of black market morphine when they were writing this. It's a wonderfully happy and upbeat song using the non-chorus parts of the lyrics from the Xmas version of "Another kind of blues". Quite a weird choice to end an album with, but it's still pretty nifty, with a poppy, vaguely country-ish sound and a choir doing the backing vocals. Even if it does sound like it was rejected from Six Wheels for being too cheerful.
Called "Come back to me" on the promo.
I'd have liked to have had this writeup ready to go by mid-August, but it seems that Amazon massively underestimated the demand for the album, proceded to screw up the backorders, and wouldn't give a reason for not shipping (the listing was still showing as "ships in 1-2 days" a week after my copy was supposed to have been sent out) until repeatedly and angrily
bludgeoned asked about it. All this meant that I didn't actually end up getting my copy until September 19.
I still have no idea if the title is a reference to the movie "Fluke", which has a puppy as its main character. Effective way?
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