Monday, June 11, 2007

Blue Fringe's "The Whole World Lit Up" sounds nice and the boys have nice voices

Blue Fringe's 'The Whole World Lit Up' Album CoverI guess I'm a real music blog now. A nice fellow at Craig & Co. sent me a copy of Blue Fringe's latest "The Whole World Lit Up" and Mare Winningham's "Refuge Rock Sublime." He hoped I might mention them on my blog. That was four weeks ago, so I'd probably should get at it.

I've got a couple of impressions about the Blue Fringe album and I'll get to them in a minute. The first thing I want to say is that my daughter really likes them. Now, she's four and not necessarily a great judge of music (her usual favorite include the Dora the Explorer album and Sandra Boynton's 'Dog Train".) but she hears a lot of 'Papa' music and usually wrinkles her nose at it. 'The Whole World Lit Up,' though, she liked enough that she's asked me to play it. When I asked her why, she summed up the whole review I'd been assembling in about 10 words.

"It sounds nice. The boys have nice voices"

And they do sound nice and they do have nice voices. I haven't heard Blue Fringe live (I'm told they are a great live band) and haven't hear their ealier albums (I'm told they're a lot grungier) so I can't compare, but this is a nice album. I'm not usually a big fan of nice albums, I tend toward things a bit scruffier or more complicated than nice but 'The Whole World Lit Up" has been in heavier rotation than I would have expected. I guess I needed a little nice lately.

While the guys aren't song writer's per se, only getting credit for English lyrics on a couple of the tracks, there are some really interesting and enjoyable arrangements. The lead off tracks 'Etz Chaim' and "Eshett Chayil" are great fun, as is "Anayni". Some of the other tracks are a bit bland for me, but pleasant enough.

I was particularly surprised by their cover of the Flaming Lips "Do You Realize." It's a fabulous song. I find it pretty soul wrenching, but in a postive way and well worth covering. The Lip's have a very off-kilter, rock and roll carnival, kind of sound that give their arrangement a court jester, only the fool can tell the truth, feeling. Blue Fringe's arrangement, and it's placement on an album with an unapologetically religious context, allows the spiritual qualities of the song come foward. Unfortunately, their nicer, smoother, arrangement waters down much of the musical tension in the song by adding some unnecessary 'ooh's' and "ahhs" that really annoyed me. Just a bit too nice.

You can catch clips of "The Whole World Lit Up" at the Samaech Music website. There are, as there should be, lots of just two Blue Fringe videos at YouTube and you can also check out the Flaming Lips original 'Do You Realize' arrangement on YouTube. Here' a live video of Blue Fringe performing Eishet Chayil from "The Whole World Lit Up" for Samaech's Podcast.

Blue Fringe - Eishet Chayil - Sameach Podcast

Nice, right?

Thanks to Julie for pointing out that there are only two Blue Fringe videos and for pointing me to the Blue Fringe website for the track "My Awakening" from their first album. It's pretty cool and gives me a better idea about where they've been, musically. I like how the song builds and releases tension. I bet that one's great to hear live. What's really interesting is that the website has two additional, hidden, tracks after "My Awakening." The first is a live track. I didn't catch the title but it's the best thing I've heard from Blue Fringe yet. These guys can really tight and really jam. I see why they're so popular live. The second is a great out-take from a recording session. Good stuff. It's acoustic with a rawer sound that works better for me. Darn. Now I'll have to go out and buy the album. Double darn. I just listened to title track to their second album '70 Faces.' It's outstanding. It's got this crazy 70's funk rhythm and horns and I am so a sucker for that. Now I'll need both albums.


Julie said...

y'know, i can't tell if you're insulting them or not... i think their 1st album (My Awakening) was brilliant. the 2nd one was ok and this one - it has some really amazing moments but i always look forward to their original stuff. that's my only qualm - is that it's covers. i like a lot of what they did to some of the songs but i REALLY feel that they missed the boat with "do you realize." i feel like the entire cleverness of the song was lost in their translation.

i also blogged about this record here:

(i apologize if this seems like spam. i am honestly not trying to promote my blog - i would just like intelligent discussion about their music.) i'd love to hear your feedback.

btw - i cracked up at what you write about your daughter b/c the same thing happened with my 2.5 year old son. he didn't like the first 2 albums so much, but this one he loved. although, he has hipster taste in music and isn't just into kiddie music, so that might explain part of it. or not...

Jack said...

Hi Julie,

Sorry if sounded like I was insulting them. I didn't mean to. I find it hard to write write ambivalent reviews. Some parts of the album worked for me and some didn't. I agree that there are some great moments that keep me coming back. But I found much of the album to be to overly simple and flat.

I don't know if I think calling "nice" is an insult. I often associate "nice" with obvious or easy. Nice, to me, lacks depth. In that sense, "nice" certainly isn't a compliment. But I don't mean that nice is bad. Not everything needs to be deep. Kids, for example, like nice. ;) Most of the time it doesn't do anything for me, though.

By the way, thanks for the pointer to your blog. I haven't read your review yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Jack said...


I just read your review. Very well done. I hope you don't mind if I cross post my response here as well as on your blog.

----Nice review. Thanks for pointing me to it. I think we heard the same thing and interpreted it in two different ways. On the plus side, there are tracks we both love. On the negative side, what you hear is a bunch of sophisticated layers with some internal conflicts that make it sound unfinished. What I hear is a bunch of layers that are sophisticated but aren't interesting (to me). I'm not sure that more polishing work would have made them interesting or not. Maybe.

Jack said...

Julie - by the way. I realized that in one comment I said that 'nice' isn't really a compliment and then told you that you're review was nice. I actually meant it as a compliment that time. Guess I'm not very consistent. Sorry.

julie said...

^ lol

i agree with you that not all the layers could've been improved with time - just some of them. there are plenty of songs where i dislike the choices they made for that given song. a good example of that is "ve'shamru" i know that they were very proud of the way that song came out and personally, i'm really not feeling it.

and btw, i agree that the album sounds "nice" - to its detriment. some of the interpretations sounded pretty and that type of pretty made that particular song lose its passion. like the cover of "bereshit" and 'do you realize." those are passionate songs and they gutted them in order to make them... nice. pretty. and that's a shame b/c those songs are meant to be deep - not fluff...

on a diff. note, you gotta get a hold of their first record. you can hear the title track (my awakening) on their website and that title track alone is worth the cost of the cd. pure genius, imo.

Julie said...

just btw, Jack - there aren't a lot of BF videos on youtube. there are only 2. everything else has nothing to do with the band. unfortunately...

Jack said...

Julie - I listend, and enjoyed, the title track you mentioned. I added a comment about it directly into my blog post.