If you've not heard of Fort Wayne's Fawn Liebowitz, you must be living under a 2 ton heavy thing. For the past four years, this group of seven talented musicians have plied their trade, creating intelligent pop for the discerning consumer of fermented beverages. Their sound is a mature mix of R&B, world music, jazz, 80s Brit-pop, and rock, an antidote to the current wave of radio pop built by committee to pick the pockets of pre-teens. With seven members you might expect a clash of egos but amazingly there is no grandstanding. Each member plays for the good of the song, bringing life to the complex yet appealing arrangements that grace their second album Bug. If you own their 1999 release, Loyalty, you'll find the new collection of songs to be a continuation of the style you've grown to love but with slightly tighter arrangements. For instance, "Diamond Life" is an upbeat, rocky song with jangling guitars and some great sax that is kept to a trim three minutes but easily could have expanded to five with some added solos. Never fear - "Get Up", the longest song on the album, includes these great, melodic guitar solos to appease the guitar solo gods and their worshippers. There are hints of early Yes in "Sanctuary", hints that break into a rousing Latin-flavored bridge with banjo. "Rent" has a soaring sax (there's lots of great, jazzy sax all over this disc) in this 80s Brit-pop song which hits home for anyone who's tried to make a living from their art or even anyone who's tried to live within their means. Rock organs and more great sax flesh out the jazzy "Poor" while my personal favorite, "Jealousy" ends with a moody, staccato string quartet. The lyrics are equally emotive and varied, drawing on a variety of images that lets the listener personalize each song, never forcing a singular meaning. The only thing that mars this great collection of pop gems is the thick layer of reverb that seems to be dusted on just about everything. It almost feels as if the instruments and vocalist are fighting through a thick wall of smoke to be heard. Every member of the band is an extremely talented musician and they deserve to be heard, up front, without being veiled by effects. Regardless, the well-written songs on this CD are catchy and given the chance will surely work their way into your humming repertoire, causing you to bug those around you with your incessant melody making.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, September 2001.