Arrows & Anchors immerses listeners in a world they never fathomed imaginable.
Fair to Midland’s fourth studio album, released by E1 Music and produced by “Evil” Joe Barresi (Tool, Coheed and Cambria, Bad Religion), seamlessly blends a backbone of hard rock with intricate leads and sprinkles influences from hand-clapping pop to country folk.
Darroh Sudderth’s ranging vocals leads an audience everywhere from the gutter to soaring above cloud nine, and Cliff Campbell’s playfully rhythmic but full bodied guitar work somehow keeps them grounded the entire time. Jon Dicken lends bass that is dynamic and tasteful in a sinfully perfect tone, and Brett Stowers leaves it to wonder how one guy with only two arms can emphasize every right note and still remain totally locked into a song. All the while, Matt Langley’s keys overlay beautiful and sometimes unnerving melodies that give each song a very particular identity from the next.
Whiskey & Ritalin starts with a gut churning combination of pick slides and drum head abuse that serves as an audio wind-up that seems to be released like a haymaker when the song breaks into its first full band riff. It sets up the rest of the album to be chugging metal through and through, but the haunting intro and supercharged chorus of Musical Chairs makes it clear this album will take a different turn. The foot-tapping Uh-Oh is so infectious that a vaccine is due out later this year, and the banjo ridden – yes, banjo – Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow strangely suggests Doc Holliday may have known what a talk box and a wah-wah pedal was. A Loophole in Limbo is airy and slightly dials back the intensity, but still leaves no doubt that it is a rock song.
The second half of the album offers the same unique listening experience as the first, and does not disappoint on lyrical content that is both thought provoking and mystifying.
Short-Haired Tornado: “If you have yourself a son I’m gonna tell your baby boy that Father Time’s chock full of lies so don’t jump in just yet.”
Rikki Tikki Tavi: “If I build the Ark, will you wait for the water?”
Golden Parachutes: “They’ll be skipping stones with your bones when these ants know where to find you.”
Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools: “He fights like hell because he wants to glow and would tackle the Sun to be a bright bulb.”
Coppertank Island: “Remember this: it’s just two cents. Two cents never made you rich.”
A track that can only be described as “epic” bookends the album. The Greener Grass is a linear masterpiece that strays from repetition while telling a very dark story in a stream of magnificence and elegance. Weighing in at over 8 minutes long, it is hard to believe it can snare a listener’s intrigue for the whole duration, but it never fails to do so.
Fair to Midland’s Arrows & Anchors is highly recommended and receives 4.5 X’s – an imperfect score only because it has an ending.