Fun. are like 'A Fever Your Can't Sweat Out'-era Panic! at the Disco, with a few more strings, gospel choirs and a vocalist who squeals out those big, dramatic high notes like his life depends on it. It's only a matter of time before they acquire themselves an army of irritatingly over-zealous teeny-bopper fans but, for now, Fun. are just a jaw-droppingly good new band. Comprised of warbler extraordinaire Nate Ruess of The Format, Andrew Dost from Anathallo, and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train fame, Fun. construct a lush indie-pop opera that simmers with barely suppressed euphoria. Everything about this album is amplified: when it's sad, Ruess' every line comes with a side order of strings; when it's happy it's like a technicolour, multi-instrumental indie-disco. 'Aim & Ignite' is the best sort of self indulgence.
Favourites are hard to pick, but 'Benson Hedges' and previous singles 'Be Calm' and 'All The Pretty Girls' pip the rest of the album to the post. Opening with the impassioned holler of a gospel choir before launching headfirst into a crazy jig of piano keys, 'Benson Hedges' seizes the listener from the opening notes and then refuses to let them draw breath for the duration of the song. How anyone can bash away at a piano with such relentless, single-minded enthusiasm is mind-boggling. Just listening to it is exhausting. Meanwhile, lead-off single 'Be Calm's bombast is more varied, as accordion, brass and string sections beat a chequered path to this song's all singing, all dancing Broadway style climax. 'Be Calm' is a towering showtune, soaked through with high drama and lovingly polished to a pop-music sheen.
'All The Pretty Girls' is something a little different. For the verses, Fun. peel back a few layers of strings and shine the spotlight firmly on Ruess' distinctively squealy, powerful voice. After leaving you in awe of Ruess' ability to hit those high notes, 'All The Pretty Girls' dives into a gooey, poppy chorus. Against the jazziness of the rest of the album, the easy, poppy flow of 'All The Pretty Girls' may feel a little bland but, give this song a chance, and soon it'll be running through your head non-stop.
Another song on this album that doesn't detonate in your face like a joy-bomb, is 'At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be).' This song has a shambolic, impromptu jazz swing to its unsteady step, meaning that at first it's difficult to get to grips with the ever-changing rhythms. The chorus is also pretty empty, although, if anyone can make a chorus consisting mostly of "whooooa-whooooooa"s interesting, it's Ruess, who belts out this lyric like it actually means something. A pretty weak song by the rest of this album's standards but, spend some time getting to know its many twists and turns, and 'I Guess I'm Not As Sad...' does become much more enjoyable.
'Barlights' proves that, in Fun. land, more is always more. Beginning with a rumbling piano, this song then drafts in jigging guitars, a full brass section and a gospel choir who croon and clap their hearts out. A little silly perhaps, but when Ruess is bellowing about living forever against a backdrop of gospel singers, with a horn or two and a stirring piano refrain thrown into the mix, it's impossible not to get caught up in the giddiness of it all.
Fun. drop some of their more flamboyant tendencies for previous single 'Walking The Dog,' 'Light a Roman Candle With Me' and 'I Wanna Be The One.'
The majority of 'Walking The Dog' consists of Ruess' elastic voice stretching and recoiling across perfectly-placed, squeaking chords. Meanwhile, 'Light a Roman Candle With Me' is a little slow to start, but after a hushed first verse and chorus, Fun. add a merrily bouncing drumline and Ruess' voice gains a more urgent note. Subdued and steady, but Ruess' vocals will win you over in the second half.
'I Wanna Be The One' feels more personal and intimate than the rest of 'Aim & Ignite.' A small-scale sing-song with a loose, almost folky feel to it, 'I Wanna Be The One' has charisma by the bucketloads. The lyrics may be a little nauseating but it's so horribly catchy, and Ruess sounds so earnest, you'll hardly notice the cheesiness of it all.
These three subdued takes on the Fun. sound are nothing compared to the harrowing piano ballad 'The Gambler,' which is pretty much the opening scene from Disney Pixar's 'Up' translated into a song. The lifetime-spanning, bittersweet story-telling lyrics are delivered with eerily believable feeling, making this a far more intense listening experience than Fun. at their most bombastic.
Fun. bring this emotionally-charged musical adventure to a close with the handclap-tastic, jangling rollick of 'Take Your Time (Coming Home.)' Mixed up with this joyful bound are passages of exotic "oh-nah-nah-nah" tribal-tinged mutterings, which are an odd fit for the rest of the song. You'll find yourself wishing Fun. had just gone full-pelt for the entire song, and delivered the sort of extravagant album-closer this CD demands. Not quite the high this album should have ended on.
'Aim & Ignite' is an expansive, full-colour listening experience where each song is packed full of theatrical drama, and as many strings, brass instruments and impassioned backing vocalists as any one album can hold. Although it may occasionally verge on silliness, 'Aim & Ignite's euphoria is infectious. An album that makes you feel pretty good about the world.