So many Fleet Foxes songs have made their way on to my summer playlists in years gone by. So many good times, set to the soundtrack of ‘Mykonos’, ‘White Winter Hymnal’, ‘Helplessness Blues’… So, what better time than now – some six years on since their last release – for the Seattle folk group to bless us with a new album? Or so I thought. It turns out that the aforementioned better time might have been something along the lines of “when the damn thing sounds like it’s finished”.
familiar to fellow graduates of the ‘Mumford & Sons School of Running Out of Interesting Melodic Ideas’
I wanted to love it. I had high hopes, hopes which were partly assuaged by the single release of ‘Third of May / Odaigahara’ – incidentally the only song on the album meriting a listen on its own grounds. The remainder are at best uninspiring, and at worst a tuneless assault upon the eardrums. Occasional forays into the more experimental areas of Fleet Foxes’ folky soundscapes are all well and good, but opening Crack-Up with ‘I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar’ feels less like an exciting experiment and more like a giant “fuck you” to any misconceptions that this was going to be an enjoyable album. Perhaps the band came up with so many different songs over the course of their three-year hiatus that the only visible solution was to splice a whole bunch of them into one disturbing whole, like some ungodly genetic experiment. The result is wandering, sometimes verges on atonal, and all too frequently leaves the unsettling mental image of singer Robin Pecknold getting close enough to a microphone to constitute public indecency.
When not being unnerved by the too-audible movements of Pecknold’s tongue, Fleet Foxes seem to err between the peaceful harmonies we have come to love and expect and the type of unsatisfying chord strumming familiar to fellow graduates of the ‘Mumford & Sons School of Running Out of Interesting Melodic Ideas’. These up-tempo moments would be enjoyable if properly integrated, but often it is not so in Crack-Up. Instead, the album all too often resembles a confused jumble of gravelled ideas dumped with undue ceremony into a musical cement mixer. Meanwhile, those other songs which do prove bearable (‘- Naiads, Cassidies’, ‘Kept Woman’, ‘On Another Ocean (January / June)’) are more “easy listening” than the engaging folk Fleet Foxes fans were looking for. Ultimately, Crack-Up is an album containing very little that prompts a return visit, and provides an odd dichotomy between the unlistenable and the unremarkable. If it intended to break new ground, it falls short – indeed, it falls short of being anything other than a tad disappointing.