F.O.D. certainly have come a long way from their origins over a decade ago as a Green Day cover band. These days, the band play Fat Wreck Chords inspired melodic punk, but are so much more than that label implies. And it’s unfortunate that many in the USA will confuse this Belgian band with the 1980s hardcore band from Philadelphia, because the two bands are nothing alike. The Belgian band, as I mentioned, play pop punk with Fat Wreck/skate punk edge. But the songs’ arrangements also share elements of progressive rock, with all sorts of interesting flourishes and embellishments. The vocals use amazingly perfect multipart harmonies and the songs are bouncy and catchy.
You get a good introduction to what you’re in for right from the start. “Sleepville Guaranteed” opens with the sound of a music box being wound up and then plinking out a delicate melody. Soon a cello and violins join in, an oboe and drums, and it’s a gorgeous chamber orchestra. Then the full band explodes with an energetic skate punk song. There are some cool breaks during the song, too, with short quiet sections with acoustic guitar. As the song ends, it flows seamlessly into “Days of Future Passed,” a pretty pop song with a gorgeous melody. The angular breaks are right out of the progressive rock playbook, but the rest is very pop punk. This song, too, moves directly without pause to “Fall In Line.” This song is remarkable because it blends skate punk, Bad Religion-inspired punk rock, and country music! Imagine a rapid-fire melodic punk song, but then add some twangy steel pedal guitar. I normally am not a fan of country or steel guitar, but the resulting mix on this song is amazing. And when you think things can’t get any more amazing, “Riverview” in next, with a huge epic sound and fantastic ‘60s psych-pop influenced breaks.
“Feeling Gay” opens with a ukulele and vocals, reminding me of mid-period Beatles. When the whole band comes in it’s still got a Beatles feel, but mixed with skate punk. And there’s a clarinet? Yes! A clarinet! The amazing melodic line and harmonies are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I certainly was grinning like an idiot while this song played, with more ‘60s pop influence included. “Food For Thought” has a great dark feel to it, even as the gorgeous harmonies continue, and the melody reminds me of something from baroque classical music – but this is hard and edgy stuff. “Annie” has an arrangement that is a cross between renaissance classical and medieval folk at the start, with acoustic guitar, violins, cello, and oboe. It’s just beautiful. The electric guitars come in delicately, and the vocals ring out a plaintive melody, as the song becomes a progressive rock tune. Until it becomes a raging skate punk track, drums pounding, guitars screaming, bass thumping rapidly. The moment the song ends, guitars furiously shouting, “Stranger In Town” opens with a cappella choir singing a complex line. Then the guitars, bass, and drums enter with a funky math rock line. I keep calling these songs amazing, but there is no other superlative – they are amazing! “Changes Rise” on any other album would be the best track, but here, the song that sounds like a slowed down Bad Religion with a more complex instrumental arrangement is the weakest. How about that? The weakest song is better than the best song for most other bands.
The closing track, “Main Street,” starts out as another huge skate punk song, and has the coolest bridge in the middle, using what sound like horns of some kind, but could be synths tuned to sound like horns. The song gets bigger and bigger, shifting time signatures and keys. Suddenly, it gets quiet, acoustic guitar and vocals alone carry the song. The tune shifts again, strings come in, and just when you think things will fade away, the whole band and chamber orchestra come in with an epic conclusion, fitting for the closing credits for some big action film. It’s the same melody we heard on the music box in the very first track! The very end plays the same melody on that same music box from the opening, as it winds down, slowing, and stopping. Wow! I am floored! This album will definitely make my best records of the year list.
Check out the album here: https://fodmusic.bandcamp.com/album/sleepville