Fair to Midland - Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True Review

by Dan Upton

Aside from setting the new record for longest title in my CD collection, Fair to Midland's debut full-length also probably sets my record for most times I've listened to a CD with no clue of what to say about it. It is of course the case that I'm finding myself with a lack of words to describe how the music strikes me; the upshot of this is that apparently my vocabulary doesn't have enough positive descriptors in it.

The relevant background is that the Dallas 5-piece are signed to Serjical Strike Records, label of System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian. And while Fair to Midland don't really reach the same sorts of chaotic moments some of System of a Down's tracks do, there's still a sense of the music being a little bit all over the place. As a result, I'm not even sure how I would try to pigeonhole them in a genre, which let's be honest, is usually fairly easy to do. (On the other hand, that's helped by the fact that we keep inventing new genre descriptors...but that's a rant for another day.) Morley Seaver commented that the sound is somewhere between System of a Down and Coheed and Cambria; the Coheed comparison at least is something I picked out independently.

Darroh Sudderth's vocals are perhaps not as piercing as Coheed's Claudio Sanchez's, but there are points on the CD where it would be easy to be put off by the higher pitches. The melodic range of the vocals are one of the many good qualities of the CD--in fact, my only real complaint about the vocals is the gritty-vocaled breakdown in the bridge of opening track "dance of the manatee". Some of the lyrics strike me as a bit over-indulgently poetic, but hey, anybody who's read my reviews should know I'm a little biased against most lyrics anyway. So whatever, draw your own conclusions on that.

The instrumentalists all play brilliantly off each other, which is by far the biggest attraction of this CD to me. Guitarist Cliff Campbell drifts easily from clean-toned ambient passages to crunchier riffs and octave melodies, with Matt Langley's keys filling in more textural background. The interplay between guitar/keys and drums stands out especially in places like the intro to "vice/versa", which is in my opinion one of the catchiest songs on the CD. And, lest I fail to name-drop the entire band, Jon Dicken's bass... well, usually doesn't jump out at me, but as usual, that's a testament to the fact that he's doing well and not killing the bottom end.

The end result of Fables From a Mayfly is a CD full of catchy, creative, well-polished and -delivered tunes that range from alternative metal to punk (well, mostly some of the melodic fills) to post-rock, all with progressive tendencies. Usually I would try to break down the CD as "for fans of..." but really any time I tried to, all I could come up with was "for fans of rock music." You'd be doing yourself a disservice not to give Fair to Midland a try.

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Fair to Midland - Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True

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