'Fly Away,' the debut album from DIY punks Fandangle is a seamless, jazz-meets-punk fusion, and is unashamedly good fun. A few minutes spent listening to this album and you'll be in the mood for some serious partying.
Fandangle blend a trumpet, trombone and saxophone with driving, almost robotic drum beats and the occasional riff in the manner much beloved of ska legends Reel Big Fish. Musically, they pull this minefield of a crossover off with great aplomb.
Stand out track 'Piece of This Place' is a carnival of sound with a slight Mediterranean flavour that'll make you want to jump on the next plane and go enjoy this CD under the sunny skies it evokes so well. Track number three, 'Sit Back, Just Relax' is a skittering tune full of jazzy hooks and snot-nosed punk vocals. This is the sound of a band having a great time and, by the time you get this far into the album, you will be too.
The trio of woodwind and brass instruments are always pumped through the speakers with maximum, lung-bursting force, but this CD isn't all about the jazz, and there is the occasional more rock-orientated track to prove it. The protracted chords of 'Homeland Obscurity' draws a cloud over the album's previously sunny skies, and 'Porn Stars (Aren't For Everyone)' features some heavily distorted riffs that bring much-needed relief from the party.
With so much going off musically - three jazz instruments, guitar, bass and drums - it's no surprise that 'Fly Away' often suffers from a lack of musical coherency. Surprisingly, this works in Fandangle's favour. The fact that they sound like a band jamming away only increases the party atmosphere and sense of fun, and greatly adds to this album's charm.
However, there are some negatives. Fandangle seem to be under the mistaken assumption that the more layers of trumpets, trombones and saxophones, the better. These jazz leanings may be the thing that makes the album such a blast to listen to, but they're a double-edged sword in that they almost completely drown out the vocals. Lead vocalist Adam Bantz doesn't necessarily have a weak voice, but he understandably struggles to make himself heard above all those instruments, and consequently this album begins to sound like a group of musicians free-styling away. While this is surprisingly entertaining, stronger vocals are needed to make the songs distinct from one another, and Fandangle desperately need to reign in the jazz if they're ever going to achieve this.
When the vocals do make a half-hearted appearance, they're usually fighting against the flow of the song. 'Homeland Obscurity' is the most obvious example of this, with its chorus sounding like it might have been written for a different song entirely. Vocals should coax out the nuances of melody that the casual listener might otherwise miss, and this certainly isn't the case with this album.
The final bone of contention regarding the vocals is that everyone in the band apart from the drummer contributes vocally, and it sounds like it. There is no clear voice leading you through this album, as everyone chips in bits and pieces, seemingly at random. This makes it virtually impossible to decipher what any one song is actually about, and they all begin to blur into one.
However, on the whole 'Fly Away' sounds like the best party ever committed to CD. The vocals may bumble unassumingly along, but 'Fly Away' is actually capable of standing up without them. Musically, this is lightening-paced punk-meets-jazz at its best, a little crazy and virtually impossible to hum along to, but guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face, even if you won't be able to sing along.