The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Fair Ohs
Everything Is Dancing Michael Dix , July 22nd, 2011 06:46

![][11662][180x180][<]For most people, showing up late to a party can be a pretty miserable affair. Everyone else is already drunk, paired off or huddled together in impenetrable groups, waist-deep in conversations that no longer make sense, leaving latecomers with nowhere to sit and nobody to talk to. Occasionally, though, it's the ones that stagger in latest that end up being the life and soul: perhaps they've been somewhere else beforehand and have caught their second wind, or maybe they just feel that they need to shout louder than anyone else in order to be heard. London trio Fair Ohs fall squarely into the latter camp. Almost half a decade after Vampire Weekend and Abe Vigoda blended American indie with the sounds of Africa, Eddy Frankel, Matt Flag and Joe Ryan have gate-crashed a party that was very nearly over. What's more, they're armed with a debut that is much better than any album whose press release mentions "West African rhythms" and "tropical post-punk" in the same sentence deserves to be.

Fair Ohs' boisterous ska-punk Afro-pop might not be particularly original, but it sure is a lot of fun. Utilising a bare-bones arsenal of guitar, bass and drums, and with each song's lyrics limited to one or two repeated phrases, the threesome's approach is minimal but decidedly effective. Opener 'Baldessari', for example, sees Frankel flipping back and forth between trebly high-life lead lines and crunchy, overdriven power chords while Flag and Ryan lock into a taut groove that recalls No-Wavers like ESG and Liquid Liquid as much as Fela's Africa 70. The kind of track that would get a dead man's toes tapping, it sets the tone perfectly for an album that rarely let's up; even when the tempo drops slightly - the melancholy 'Colours', 'Marie' - Ryan's relentless, propulsive drumming drives these songs forward with a feverish intensity.

Despite the frantic pace, however, the overall vibe is surprisingly laid-back. Like friends Male Bonding, these guys counterbalance their more punk-rock tendencies with a slacker's stoned nonchalance; the sprawling, psychedelic 'Yah' may teeter on the brink of self-indulgence but the trio seem so genuinely lost in the music that it’s hard to hold it against them, and a couple of drawn-out ambient interludes feel more like necessary breathers (or, more likely, smoking breaks) than artistic statements.

Everything Is Dancing is full of balmy summer imagery - beach parties, swimming in lakes - but even at its most frantic the band never sound like they're breaking a sweat.

While the idea of white boys with guitars channelling African and Caribbean sounds might already seem played-out, there is something about Fair Ohs' boundless enthusiasm that could win over the most cynical critic. In comparison to, say, the meticulously studied multicultural homages found on Vampire Weekend's Contra, nothing about Everything Is Dancing seems at all forced, and while it might be presumptive to suggest, it certainly seems that the Londoners are drawing from influences that have actually soaked into their subconscious over the years, as opposed to heard second-hand through the likes of Paul Simon or David Byrne. They may be late to the party, but with this impressive, infectious debut Fair Ohs have just given it a new lease of life.