This is a review of "Fits and Starts" recorded by O Fracas. The review was written by Alexander Rennie in 2008.
Ever since Pythagoras, the history of angularity has been one of sharp peaks and troughs. Musically speaking, those who favour the sharp edges seem to have found more success when the acute has been tempered, or even augmented, by the obtuse; where the willful confusion of your ears has been rendered palatable by the delivery of the odd hummable bass line or pithy lyrical couplet.
O Fracas debut long player is confusing, for sure, and for long periods seems hell-bent on refusing even the merest opportunity to latch onto an ongoing tune or melodic advance. Whilst one might initially have been drawn to the band through the catchy, if oblique, little number on DTTR's second compilation, or the fact that they long sported a plastic maraca as a logo, the fact is that they're extremely difficult to dance to for more than 15 seconds unless you've scientifically programmed either your narcotic melange or personal sleep-deprivation programme to allow you to do so.
Obviously there is no reason why bands should prostrate themselves before the idol of melodic conservatism. But during the majority of their output - in which they stop and start more erratically than that snaggle-toothed munchkin from 'Driving School' in days of reality-TV yore - they seem almost to be mucking around with time signatures for the sake of it. Gang of Four or XTC scarcely stuck to conventional structure, but listening to most of their stuff even a couple of times you could hear that they at least enjoyed a nodding acquaintanceship with it.
That's not to say that there aren't memorable moments. 'What Jim Hears' may flit as idly as some of the other numbers, it does seem to have a general purpose and direction to it; likewise the title track, 'Fact Finding'. Besides, you could actually dance to these numbers - not something that could be said for the uncomfortable twitch-folk of the preceding pair; 'Thousand Times' and 'You Can Hear the World from Menwith Hill'.
Album closer 'Zeroes and Ones' is the one sure-fire winner. Whilst replete with jittery energy and the sort of hand-clapping and nervously twitching guitars that !!! or The Sunshine Underground would be proud of, it is still capable of skipping about the musical landscape in the same elusive fashion as its less successful fellow album-dwellers.
Whilst this album may demonstrate some progression from 'John Roland...' and other earlier material, the band still seem to be in sonic thrall to the conflict implied by their moniker. It's not without merit, but I soon sound myself yearning for at least one or two memorable refrains amongst all the earnest clatter. The problem here is that such brushes with melody as there are ('16 Beats', 'Falling Fast Behind'), sadly, tend rather towards the bland. It's not a crippling failure, but the disc could have offered rather more.