ALBUM REVIEW: Fatherson – ‘Sum of All Your Parts’

8/10

One of Scotland’s many excellent qualities is its seemingly effortless ability to produce majestic, brooding musical artists. The band Fatherson exemplifies the quality and brilliance which best describes this latest generation of bands that call Scotland home. On September 14 Fatherson releases their third album, “Sum of All Your Parts” on all the usual musical platforms. This time around the trio has distilled their singular energy and verve into a straightforward and lustrous release while retaining the bittersweet melancholy that makes their work so distinctive.

The members of Fatherson have known each other since primary school and were all of 14 when they decided to form their first band. The trio is comprised of Ross Leighton on guitars and vocals, Marc Strain on bass and Greg Walkinshaw on drums. Since the release of their 2016 album, the critically acclaimed Open Book, the band has toured extensively opening for the likes of Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit and Idlewild. The band’s intention upon returning to the recording studio was to change things up, drawing upon their Scottish Stoicism and personal turmoil as inspiration for the release. In the songwriting, they put aside their security blanket of metaphor and antidotes eliminating the filters and getting more intimate.

Fatherson had self-produced their prior two releases but chose this time to recruit a producer. They would select Claudius Mittendorfer who has worked with the Arctic Monkeys, Interpol and Weezer. Prior to entering the recording studio the band Skyped extensively with Mittendorfer but only met face to face at the beginning of their studio time. Mittendorfer and the band decided to approach recording for the release from a different angle than the band had utilized in the past. The band was accustomed to recorded tracks in segments. This time around they elected to record live in the studio creating an organic feel to the release. To further support their goal they committed the songs to master in chronological order. What quickly becomes striking is the paradox built into Sum of All Your Parts when compared to Fatherson’s prior releases. The new release has a very sleek feeling yet conveys all the charm of a band playing together in real time and finding they are unable to wipe the emerging smile off their faces. That sleek feeling exists in contrast to the intimate feeling of being placed in the studio with the band as they run through the 10 tracks on the album. This paradox makes for an alluring draw for the listener.

Sum of All Your Parts is an apt title for this release as it displays the many engaging facets the band has to offer both musically and lyrically all building to an excellent total. The impressive opening track The Rain is both cinematic and brooding. It begins with a piano coda reminiscent of falling raindrops then kicks into an Edge-like guitar, heady bass thump and earth-shaking drums. There is an inherent satisfaction that emanates from the texturing of the instrumentation as Ross Leighton’s lyrics dancing and weaves along. This alluring song welcomes you into the album. The next track Making Waves was the originating spark for the album. It is a punchier track with definite bluesy tones that slam into a cranking rock vibe. Making Waves displays the marks left on the band from touring as an opening act and suggests the apprentice is possibly ready to outshine the masters in delivering arena thumping tunes. Gratitude will satisfy longtime fans of the band with lyrics that are becoming trademark introspection for Fatherson.

They examine the universality of being overly self-critical to the point of paralysis and the balm that exists in knowing we all fall short of the mark. The brilliant Nothing to No One is where the band truly hits their stride. The song is an excellent bridge from Open Book blending their proprietary blend of melancholy with a crystalline sonic that makes it spectacular. The track is made even more dramatic and compelling with the female vocalist in duet with Leighton. Doubling down on the goodness Oh Yes is just as spellbinding. This ballad about romantic setbacks and losses is heartfelt and earnest. The lyrics are particularly arresting when discussing the difficulties of loving someone who seems to be fighting you the whole way, “ I don’t want to lose you, but you’re making it hard… this is for everyone who feels their living with their eyes shut, treading on eggshells and trying their best.” The musical arrangement also shows the maturity the band has achieved. The arrangement begins with a minimalist feeling and then kicking into swirling guitars and synths to take the drama of the lyrics over the top and into an unforgettable moment on the release.

From that noteworthy moment on the recording, the album continues with winning tracks like The Landscape and Ghost which display the band’s enthusiasm for music. It also portrays their ability to communicate the fears and challenges they are facing at this point in their lives as musicians. Ghost is especially impressive with an explosive energy that is extremely reminiscent to Foals. I also love Reflection which has as its narrative all the awkwardness of the emotions that exist when faced with the call back after the first date. This all plays out over an icicle cool reverb guitar and is another winning and clever selection. Charm School is a boisterous romp that erases any doubts this band can rock with the best of them. Illuminated in the lyrics is the challenge of trying to live by a gentle person’s rules in a lawless and rude world. This track is extremely catchy and uses some excellent 70’s rock flourishes to get the job done.

The simply tasty sign off track is Building a Wall and it is the crescendo of the album again referring to the concept of the release title. Within the track is found a brilliant blending of percussive attack, shimmering guitars, inspired vocal effects along with a throbbing bass which produces a literal sum being greater than each part. Additionally engaging is the amalgamating of stellar influences like The Police, The Cure, Arcade Fire, REM and even a little Rush to make for a unique and enticing selection. The lyrics look at the idea of breaking down the walls we build for emotional protection when personally attacked and instead of putting the naysayers back in their box. Fatherson peels off one heck of a track for the end of this striking release.

Fatherson has again released an impressive, cohesive and engaging recording. It is always evident they dedicate a lot of time and effort to each album. On Sum of All Your Parts time and time again I was impressed by the band’s instinctual ability to know when to let loose and when to taper things back. The band members’ love of making music is transparently conveyed on every track. It is also encouraging to see the band progress and fearlessly changing things up; challenging themselves while developing additional skills along the way. Sum of All Your Parts is certainly worthy of any Alternative Audiophile’s attention. The recording certainly builds anticipation for the next instalment in the Fatherson discography.