Posts Tagged ‘Fleet Foxes’

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Review)

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

(4 Stars out of 5)

The Fleet Foxes are becoming the modern day Simon and Garfunkel. Robin Pecknold with his plethora of backup vocalists have modernized the folk genre to the point that in 20 years the next up and coming band will be called the next Fleet Foxes.

‘Helplessness Blues’ is a sophomore effort that doesn’t stray too far from their debut album that shot to the tops of the critic’s charts.  While the album offers less pop and more atmosphere, the key to their sound is that they avoid the trap of ‘Folk’ albums that sound like ‘Folk’ albums. It’s one thing having poignant lyrics and it’s another where you can combine that with beautiful melodies.

For me, folk music is a genre that has never quite inspired me to search out the deep cuts of any particular artist with a few exceptions. Often those exceptions where rooted in pop acts that had great lyricists to begin with.

And while I would describe the Fleet Foxes as one of the better bands of the 21st Century, one of the flaws I see, and this being a minor one at that is songs like ‘Battery Kinzie’, and ‘Helplessness Blues’, don’t provide the power of the band that I mentioned earlier (Simon and Garfunkel). Helplessness Blues is a very personal album and often the “Lost Love” songs don’t pack the same power that a poet and a one-man band can carry.

Take songs like ‘America’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, which are more about trying to find our place in our culture. Or take a more contemporary artist such as Jeff Tweedy who pondered in ‘Ashes of American Flags’, “I wonder why we listen to poets and nobody gives a fuck”.  It might be because as Pecknold ponders in ‘Helplessness Blues’:

And now after some thinkin’

I’d say I’d rather be

a functioning cog in some great machinery

serving something beyond me.

But I don’t I don’t know what that will be.

I’ll get back to you someday

Soon you will see.

In our post 9/11 world we are asked to remember and yet we write about our own personal battles.  Pecknold’s in many ways admitting right here that very failure; “How can I figure out the battles going around me when I am still trying to get past my own?”

It might also have to do with the fact that more than ever we are being raised to be individuals rather than members of society. We cannot function in teams or as part of a unit. There are strong political beliefs that ask for more individual rights with less reliance on the public sector.

Montezuma expresses that same sentiment: “Oh how could I dream of, Such a selfless and true love, Could I wash my hands of? Just lookin out for me”

Conversely, since Jeff Tweedy and Wilco made the great American album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, the future work has proved to be much more about internalizing everything.

In an age where we can see photos and video from our fingertips, I want to see a band try to tackle that subject.   While I might be hard on the Fleet Foxes, it’s my thought that they might be that band.  While the album provides the tools to be one of the great folk rock albums of this era, it needs to go further.

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