By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
If you gave some kids from the sleepy Central Valley a few shoegazer CDs, a library of fantasy fiction, and a couple of '70s glam rock records and asked them to put it all together, the result might sound something like Fiver. This Modesto quintet takes its name not from the number of members in the band, but from a furry character in Richard Adams' bunny-centric epic novel Watership Down. Echoing its namesake's ability to foresee the future, Fiver has dubbed its latest offering Here It Comes, suggesting that the group itself senses it's on the verge of widespread recognition.
But even with this agile album -- Fiver's third full-length effort -- the band reveals that it could still stand some streamlining. Though Here It Comes draws imaginatively from just about every corner of the indie rock canon, Fiver's well-crafted and diverse selection of songs often comes off a bit cold. Instead of embracing the raw passion characteristic of other Central California bands like Pavement and Grandaddy, Fiver huddles beneath a rabbit warren of complexity that often buries the band's potential emotion.
Where Fiver succeeds is with a cohesive sound held together by delicate, spaced-out melodies, textured instrumentation, and frontman Dave Woody's high, fragile vocals. Unlike the work of so many of Fiver's peers, the quintet's attempt at a consistent sound doesn't result in an album on which every song sounds the same. Instead, the band's various influences shine distinctly on each track, whether it's an acoustic lethargy reminiscent of Radiohead on the album's quieter numbers or the gentle playfulness of Mercury Rev (on songs like "O, Fearless One"). "Speeds of Light" is pure dream-pop, with futuristic sound effects and an upbeat bass line that suggest the sonic realm of the Swirlies. On tunes like "Desires of the Laser Age" and "Warriors," Fiver uses fuzzy guitars and meandering vocals to shift into shoegazer mode, redolent of Lush or Slowdive. One of the album's strongest songs, "On Our Way," suggests the low-key T. Rex of "Life's a Gas," with bold rhythm guitar and Woody's Marc Bolan-esque vocals.
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But too often, the group's attempts at multilayered art rock result in songs that triumph technically but fail to connect emotionally. Rawer tracks like "Every Light Is Gone Out" hint at the unbridled confessional Fiver's capable of, but other songs rely too heavily on impersonal electronic effects and genre-specific posturing. The weak "Tiny Waves" recalls the Lilys' 1995 album Eccsame the Photon Band; unfortunately, as the Lilys already demonstrated, sweeping soundscapes can grow dull if they're too repetitive.
At times, Here It Comes is so measured that it seems incapable of letting any soul seep through. But when Fiver lets its guard down, it proves it has the potential to climb up from underground and assume a shining spot on the indie rock surface.