Label: Monotreme Release date: 27/19/10 Link: Myspace Buy/Stream: Amazon/Spotify When I’m listening to a band I’ve never heard of for the first time, I’m hoping it will be either brilliant or bollocks. Both ends of the spectrum seem to operate on a kind of horse shoe system, whereby as much pleasure is derived from hearing something impossibly, absurdly terrible, as discovering a work of blindingly life changing awesomeness. I don’t know how typical I am in this focus on extremes of quality, but I mean, come on, anything’s preferable to being straightforward, Plain Jane average. Unfortunately, this is what Fops are guilty of. They make music that surfs the electro-pop-folk-psychedelic zeitgeist with aplomb, but Animal Collective needn’t lose any sleep over competition from these Californian hippies of the Garage Band generation. The two minds behind this, Dee Kesler and Chad Bidwell, are from successful underground acts Thee More Shallows and Ral Partha Vogebacher respectively, but rather than producing the kind of imaginative offspring you might expect, this pair have put out a record that isn’t awful, isn’t good, and isn’t necessary. The songs often feel full of promise, but it’s a promise that is rarely fulfilled. 'Scandinavian Preppie', for instance, underpinned by a gently pounding beat and pulsating synth line, feels like it should be a pretty strong track, but instead meanders its way from one vague melody to another. Whenever choruses feel like they should be just round the corner, as in 'Black Boar', they fail to materialise, and what we get instead is soupy effect-drenched vocals lazily singing over a pedestrian backing track. There are good moments, even if there aren’t any good overall songs. 'Solid Copper Huntress' has a nice vibe reminiscent of some of Bowie’s ‘80s stuff, and both the verse and chorus melodies are strong and catchy; a nice touch prominent in this track, and that also comes around a few times on the album, is the occasional close-recorded spoken word style reaction to the main vocal part. The best track on the record, 'Maple Mountain', is almost actually good in its own right, and again it seems like they get things right when they focus on defining the guitar and keyboard lines so they’re not floating in the musical ether. The less said about the unnecessary pseudo-ambient interludes that pepper the album, the better, and I don’t think anyone has really been crying out for an extended guitar solo over pedalled sitar chords for quite some decades now, despite what Fops would have us believe in 'Dragomirov On The Dancefloor'. There are probably going to be a lot of people who dig this record, and I don’t blame them. On paper it should be great: the band members have pedigree, some of the songs have occasional hooks, and apparently there’s a well thought out overarching narrative to the whole record. So maybe the fact that I can’t enjoy it is my own stuffy fault. But I can’t hate it either, and frankly I’d prefer it if I could to just finding it a little boring as I do. Photobucket