posted on October 19, 2008 19:00
A review of 'Fight Like Apes & The Mystery of the Golden Medallion'
Review Snapshot: Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion is, to borrow a phrase from the funniest man on television, Jon Stewart, an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, nestled in a sesame seed bun of mystery. I hated it, I liked it, I loved it, I hated it again and then, when I thought I was falling in love one more time, something struck me and everything changed. Fight Like Apes have made a solid debut record. Indeed it will probably be one of the best records of the year and for that they should be commended. It’s just that I was expecting more than solid. I was expecting greatness.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
I’ve had Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion in my hands and on my stereo for quite some time now. There was, obviously, a temptation to rush to judgment on this record. After all, it was being touted as the most important release of the year and one could only sit back and smile at the ensuing clamour to be the first to review it. Had I reviewed it on the day of its release, it would have garnered no more than a 3 or 4. A week later it could have scored 9 or 9.5. That’s how much my feelings towards this album fluctuated.
Now though, after almost a month of soul searching, I realise why this album confuses me. Following a number outstanding live performances I’d bought into the hype surrounding Fight Like Apes and for the first couple of weeks after its release I paid the price for such foolishness. No album could have carried the weight of expectation I had laid upon the shoulders of Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion. However, shorn of my unrealistic expectations (which would surely have soundtracked the second coming of Jesus and/or Elliott Smith) this is actually quite a good album.
There are those that will complain that songs like Jake Summers, Lend me your Face, Do you Karate? and Battlestations have all been reworked and don’t sound as lo-fi (and, therefore, as good) as their originals. However, when you listen to the album in its entirety these re-workings were necessary. The original versions of those songs just don’t hold the slick production values of newer tracks like Something Global and Digifucker. As individual songs they lose some of their charm, but the reworking benefits the album as a whole.
John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Pavement) was brought on board as producer and has obviously decided to bring the band in a more polished direction and Fight Like Apes have (‘indier than thou’ types please look away now) created a more commercially viable record because of that. The Fight Like Apes formula is one a lot of bands could take note of. High octane live shows help to generate underground hype and establish indie credentials. Releasing a well produced record will then, almost certainly, generate mainstream radio play and increase sales.
Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion is not an album without faults mind. It’s very ‘top heavy’ for a start. The second half of the album (12 songs) contains only two songs, Do you Karate? and I'm Beginning to Think you Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 to Me, that are worthy of note. Lumpy Dough, Snore Bore Whore and Megameanie do nothing to counter claims that the boys and girl in Fight Like Apes may be more self-conscious than they claim. Fight Like Apes are at their weakest when they try to sound like Fight Like Apes.
In the words of Eamon Dunphy, Fight Like Apes & the Mystery of the Golden Medallion is a good album, not a great album. However, and you only have to read the sheer volume of reviews/blogs associated with the band to see I’m not alone, I firmly believe this is a band with greatness in them. That being said, history hasn’t been kind to Irish ‘next big things’ (JJ72 for one) and only Fight Like Apes know if they can ever become the band the rest of us seem to think they are destined to be. Indeed, only Fight Like Apes know if they even want to become that band.