New Yorkers’ second LP is one big, beautiful oxymoron, and really rather special.
Al Fox 2012-05-16
Debut album Aim and Ignite made minor ripples in the States for NYC-based trio fun., but with behemoth single We Are Young leading the charge (the first rock song to top the Billboard 100 in almost four years, let alone clock up six weeks there), it’s pretty much a given that second album Some Nights will go several steps further.
The way We Are Young defies convention, playing with tempo and employing Janelle Monáe on backing vocals, insinuates the makings of a game-changer. And while the track remains Some Nights’ greatest offering, there’s plenty on this new set to snap at its heels.
It’s an immensely stylised record, the collaboration between fun. and hip hop producer Jeff Bhasker in full view throughout: striking, emotive, all-American radio-indie laced with tricky urban beats. With that as a foundation, the experiments come thick and fast.
The brooding ballroom emo of the eponymous intro track gives way to audio of news reports, bursts of opera and horror movie shrieks. Frankly, it sounds like someone indiscriminately thumping a soundboard. But, miraculously, it works. Just as the discordant parps of One Foot works, and Carry On’s bizarre juxtaposition of traditional Irish folk ditty and ambitious Spinal Tap noodling works.
Not that Some Nights is flawless. Nestled amongst the grand ideas are a couple of comparatively watery offerings: Why Am I the One, for instance, is an overt and gooey nod to Crosby, Stills & Nash. But even then the surprises keep coming, the track mutating into an ocean of fizzing bleeps in its closing stages.
So while fun. offer a portion of cheese, somehow they’re simultaneously almost Queen-esque in their bold, dramatic tones. The whole album, while instantaneous, is a mystery. What should feel like gimmicks give Some Nights a distinct individuality.
It’s camp, but it’s shadowy. It’s epic, but it’s introvert. It’s highly peculiar, yet hugely commercial. It’s one big, beautiful oxymoron. And, in keeping with that theme, fun. will attract as many hecklers as they will fans. But, if history has taught us anything, that’s often the mark of something rather special.