So, back in 2007 I was introduced to a band called The Format, and I instantly fell in love. Real love. Rachel McAdams/Ryan Gosling love. Apple Bottom Jeans/fat white girl love. You know, so restricting it’s disgusting kind of love. A few months later, the New England Patriots put a 1 in the loss column on my 18th birthday, and for the briefest of moments, I thought, “Maybe God does exist…”. The next day, The Format announced their break up, I knew God was a total hoax, and I quickly spiraled into a stoned, drunken, coked up stupor for the next 18 months. I mean, things were bad, man. I remember chugging a bottle of contact solution, doing a line of powdered sugar, and licking the first toad I could find, just to get fucked up. I even started to appreciate Britney Spears as a talented artist.
Then, like the Birthers movement, my personal hell disappeared as quickly as it had come on. Nate Reuss, lead singer of The Format, formed a new project with members of Anathallo and Steel Train in late 2008. They call themselves “fun.” and the grammatical issues are on purpose. In May, they released the first single from their new album, “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)”, on their MySpace page. It sounded like God trying to foot-in-the-door his way back into my life. I knew everything was gonna be all right.
Their premier (and self-produced) album, Aim and Ignite, hits shelves, both digital and physical, tomorrow. Fans, however, are notedly overzealous, and some mastermind (thank you, whoever you are) leaked the album exactly one month before it’s release. It is for that reason I look like a big wig pushing out a review before the CD hits the public eye(Pod). I’ve been listening to it for four weeks now. Coincidentally, I’ve been clean and sober for exactly that much time. So, let’s get into it, track by track. Pun intended.
Track 1: “Be Calm”
This is how to start an album off. It starts out slow, with some Moulin Rouge sounding shit, dank violins and organs and all, drops out, speeds up into the first verse, then 30 seconds later slows down again. Then it speeds up again, slows down, and hits the chorus. “Be calm, be calm, I know that you feel like you are breaking down…” and it all comes together. When the feel and tempo of a song match exactly the message of the lyrics, my iPod orgasms. No lie. I hate taking advice from anyone, and I will deliberately avoid doing something I’ve been told to do, even if I want to, simply because I was told to. But when Nate tells me to be calm, I listen. Fellow Format fans, take this song to heart – be calm, the music is back. 5
Track 2: “Benson Hedges”
I think this might be their second single released. Benson & Hedges were the first cigarettes I ever smoked, so just by title, I’m intrigued. Poppiness galore, impressive piano, violins, synth, all of it. He calls out both MTV and Bill O’Reilly as being dregs of the cable world, which I can’t agree with more. My favorite line is “I don’t care to be forgiven, I only wanna be forgotten,” and the lyrics prove original throughout the melody. 4.5
Track 3: “All The Pretty Girls”
This is one of those tracks that starts out with the band talking, when out of nowhere the whole band sings the first lines, and the back up vocalists make their first important appearance in grand style. The chorus runs this tune, and it’s a great one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to relate to the lyrics, “All the pretty girls on a Saturday night,” because most of my Saturdays involve RedBox and my lapdog, but it certainly does make me want to be less of a loser. Nate is simply trying to encourage me to socialize. When the bridge steps in, he points out that he feels some girl’s faith is destroying the world, so I do know where he’s coming from on that one. All jokes aside, a fun song from a fun band. Makes sense enough. 4.5
Track 4: “I Wanna Be The One”
I wasn’t at all excited about the title – unoriginality at it’s best – but the beginning notes changed my perception of this song. Then the horns and violin changed it even further. Then the simple, catchy “ba ba bas,” variations of which are healthily dispersed throughout the album, titillated even more. And the lyrics would be damned if they heard me calling their novelty into question, and Nate even says “I know it’s been said before…” satisfying any qualm I had. Yeah, it’s still a little cheesy, but it outright earns my praise. I tried hard not to like this song, yet when I laid my head down to sleep (right after saying my prayers, of course) that first night after hearing the album, THIS was the song that played in my head. I always love a good surprise. 4.5
Track 5: “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)”
Released on May 5th, this was the first song I heard by fun. and it really marked a recovery from my descent into alcoholism. This is a really interesting song, with Format tendencies blending with a simply awesome caribbean feel and lyrics that paint the status of past relationships and how they’ve evolved yet stayed exactly the same. Female vocals pop in, though I don’t know who they belong to – hell, could be Nate, he’s got quite the range. The words in this song make me so happy. They’re original yet simple, fun yet deep, witty yet accessible. Some of my favorite pairings include “C’mon can you count all the notches in your belt?/I’d rather not, let’s just say I’m starving myself”, “Baby put your name down on a piece of paper/I don’t want no savior baby I just wanna have a good time” (I like this because in my mind it’s about beer pong), and “C’mon can you count all the loves that didn’t last/It’s such a gas when you bring up the past”. Oh, but the lyrics are so good, I want to include some more. “I don’t keep friends, I keep acquainted/I’m not a prophet, but I’m here to prophet” and “I don’t fall in love, I just fake it/I don’t fall in love, I don’t fall in love” make the list too. Great first single. In fact, it’s even better than “The First Single”. 5
Track 6: “Light A Roman Candle With Me”
This is a slow song, and it starts out with great horns and a few other happy sounds I can’t identify. The words portray the romance in simple activities, are heartfelt and novel, and he even rhymes “sonnet” with “sandwich with everything on it” which is just the coolest thing ever in my book. Imagine if Shakespeare ran a delicatessen, SNL gold right there. Well, MadTV maybe. This song is where the title comes from, Aim and Ignite referring to roman candles. I dig the concept. It’s a good change of pace and a solid transition into the second half of the album. 4.5
Track 7: “Walking The Dog”
This track must be heavily influenced by Vampire Weekend, which isn’t too farfetched, considering they’re both out of NYC. They throw in some vocal effects, and maybe some weird computer generated sounds, but it comes together in a good way. The lyrics don’t stand out to me, but he does reference Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, so I’ll let it pass. 4
Track 8: “Barlights”
I don’t like the start of this song, it reminds me of a watered down “Money” by Pink Floyd, but it fixes itself before long, and next thing you know I’m in love with another Nate Reuss song. He talks about a billboard that says “Have you had too much?” (alcohol), to which he replies out loud “I’ve had too much” while thinking “I’m just getting started.” Almost makes me think this songs about me. “Barlights” is basically a song about the times when drinking is a good thing, that moment of clarity and feeling of utter happiness that comes along around beer 5 or so. I mean, if it comes at all, of course. “Now all the barlights are blinking in time/to Mexican music, it’s taunting the pavement/and I feel alive” – for those of us who get down with destroying our bodies, it’s a very relatable idea, and it’s done gracefully. Oh yeah, the music is excellent as well, but you can pretty well expect that by now. 4.5
Track 9: “The Gambler”
Another slowy, but goody. It’s piano and violin driven, so that’s a plus. I don’t know who he’s singing about – his parents are my only real guess – but damn, what a story this song tells. It’s a happy one, but it’s done in such an emotional way. I don’t even want to degrade this song with my usual sarcasm, or any comments at all, really. Listen to this song, listen to the lyrics. It breaks my heart every time, man. This song comes out of nowhere. Just listen to it. 5
Track 10: “Take Your Time (Coming Home)”
Starting out with a “Ta na na” feels like a shoutout to Paul Simon, and I hope it is. If not, still dank. This is the final song on the album, and it tops out at just under 8 minutes. I like the lyrics, nothing to write home about though. The music and vocals drive this song, and because of the length, there are several distinct segments with different feels. It’s a solid way to end out the album. 4
When I first heard this album, I was disappointed. I don’t know why – probably because I listened extensively to The Format in preparation, as I had originally intended on comparing this to Dog Problems a lot, which I decided not to do. But the more I listen to Aim and Ignite, the more I like it. It’s not Dog Problems, and I won’t say if it’s better or it’s worse – it’s just different. Fun is not The Format 2, but to fans of The Format, you will like fun. and you absolutely need to buy this album. Yes, I said BUY, because even though I downloaded it for free, I still plan on purchasing this CD tomorrow, because this band deserves it, and I want them to have my money so they can keep producing awesome music. I want them to have your money, too. Hell, I think Obama should have included fifty grand in the stimulus package just for this band. Maybe we can still slip it into the healthcare bill. From what I’ve heard, most of them don’t even plan on reading it.
P.S. I hope everyone realizes I was never in a drunken, coked up stupor and I didn’t do any of those stupid things (especially the Britney comment). I also lied about being sober, I’m not that either. I’m just normal.