Foggy Bottom - Sur le Fil

8 songs
31:47 minutes
***** ****


French indie power pop trio released their debut EP Six Songs About This Famous Andrew in 2001. Back then the two guys and one woman from Thionville close to the Luxembourg border were heavily influenced by Weezer, and their songs still had English. Four years later they were back with their eponymous longplayer, this time with French lyrics, but the Weezer parallels were still obvious. And that was that.

And now, seemingly out of nowhere, twelve years older, Foggy Bottom are back with the short album Sur le Fil, and compared to their works from the previous decade, their sound has veered off into a slightly different direction. Which at first sounded unusual turns out to be a win for the band though. The overall mood of the eight tracks is less bouncy pop, instead there is a stronger noise component to the music, especially the guitar which is shredding through the songs as if the last twenty-five years had never happened. This makes for a denser sound, but also for a somewhat gloomier and more melancholic atmosphere that works better for musicians close to their forties than another attempt of youthful happy tunes. Take for instance the opener Si seulement which comes with poetic lyrics and a never ending guitar that makes you think of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The vocals are melodic and feel a little sad, but also a little too much in the background of the music. It might be a small objection only, as the three instruments work really well together, with the drums wildly galloping through the track, while the bass guitar provides a steady rhythm on which the guitar is delivering its noisy riffs. The title track Sur le Fil comes with acoustic guitar, is a more sedate track and yet still finds time for a noisy sound. This happens when you apply discreet distortion to the acoustic guitar, and reminds me a little of Bob Mould’s work. The songwriting is as exquisite as on the opener, with a catchy melody that has you sing along in no time. L’Enfer takes advantage of the great backing vocals, maybe a little Pixies style, without the country touch tough. I dare say that there is a certain Sixties pop flair hidden somewhere beneath this also wonderful song. On No One Else, the band switches back to English lyrics, as on their EP sixteen years ago, and prove that they are adept at both languages. I could go on writing about each and every song, but I think you get the general idea.

Twelve years is a long time to have been absent from the music scene, but I hardly come across comebacks that feel so heartfelt and sincere than Sur le Fil. Foggy Bottom may no longer be youngsters. If I remember correctly, they weren’t even that young back then, but life experience has sharpened their songwriting skills, making Sur le Fil their most mature effort to date. Fans of noisy power pop with indie leanings should relish at the prospect of listening to this amazing if a little short new album by the Thionville power trio.

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