So I just spun up the newest from our boys Fun (Some Nights is out on Fueled by Ramen Records on February 21, 2012) and I have some Thoughts.
Was it bad? No. Not at all. In fact, I’d call it an enjoyable record. It’s very big sounding. Is that the influence of producer Jeff Bhasker, known for his work with Kanye (on 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), Jay-Z (Run This Town) and Lana del Rey (Whatever, No One Cares, Go Home Lana del Rey)? Or has Fun changed their tune? Let’s roll back the clock for a second and ponder.
Fun’s first full-length effort, Aim & Ignite, blasted forth from our speakers in a nearly-baroque rainbow of catchy pop hooks and crunchy guitars. Sure, it had string sections and horn sections, synthesizers and electronic bleeps and bloops, but at its heart it belonged to the rock and roll band. It was tight. That backbeat was still there. The guitars were still lurking, attacking at the climax of Take Your Time. The record had, for lack of a better word, fun. We had fun listening to it. Sing-songey choruses and “doo-doo” backup singers meant that we could turn the stereo up and our car windows down and sing along with no shame. (Until the harpsichord showed up. Good luck keeping up there.)
Now, Some Nights is here. Dropped into our lap this afternoon in a nondescript brown envelope. A round of applause, a sneered fuck it all, and tinkly piano greets us as an orchestra swells and an opera singer shows up out of nowhere. Nate is singing about going insane again, and it seems like another big Format introduction a la Matches and I’m Actual.
When the introduction is complete though, the curtain is raised and we can see how far back the stage really goes. Where Aim & Ignite felt like a bunch of friends playing (albeit extremely well-rehearsed) in our living room, Nights is huge. The title cut sounds as though a gang of taiko drummers have found Kanye’s MPC and taken Nate Ruess along for the ride. It’s large and a little overwhelming.
The rest of the album follows suit, with more electronic noises and autotune applied throughout. Nights maintains the Fun tradition of sudden stops and musical turns while giving Nate’s voice space to swoop and dive over the top of everything else. There are real strings all over the place. There are also beats that sound like they came from my decade-and-a-half-old Casio keyboard.
This isn’t to say it’s bad. I want to like it. There are parts that are genuinely inspiring (near the end of Carry On, or most of All Alright, for example) that get smashed to bits by the next movement (the speaker-destroying wump-wump of It Gets Better).
I’m reminded of OK Go’s transformation from a guitar band on Oh No to an indie-synthy-thing on Blue Sky. What happened guys? Where are the power chords?
Fun still has those most of those power chords, you just have to dig them out from layers of digi-drums and compu-strings. I blame Bhasker.