All of my friends who know me well, know that I love quirky. Other things I love: synths, abstract lyrics, instrumental intros, and distinct singing voices. Frances Bowie has all of these and more; the new album titled “Superblind Forever Free” is a psychedelic-synthy romp through worlds of desperate sonic reality. The themes are catchy and the mood is futuristic and still so familiar.
The album begins with the instrumental track “Are You Hungry?” it’s a sort of electro-prelude featuring a semi-orchestral approach to synth composition. It’s part electric-light-parade and part vintage indie-rock. Probably its biggest strength is the subtle evolving nature of the track, it’s very cohesive but at the same time never boring.
“It’s in the Way” is next up – octave voices soar over thin synth lines. Melodically, it seems like it could be right at home with a late 1950’s early 1960’s slow dance scene from a movie. On the other hand, the drums and instrumentation make it decidedly modern.
The third track is “Fit In” (also featured in the above music video) is a song with a very slick guitar line accompanied by whistling. These vocals are way more rock-belty a la the “other” bowie. A song about not being accepted is nothing new to indie music, but again, the instrumentation and arrangement makes for an extremely original sound. A Hammond organ is also featured prominently in this number which scores big points with me.
“Cathedral” has probably the most orchestral intro of the whole album. To me, it is reminiscent of The Blue Nile’s song “The Downtown Lights” (a song I adore by the way) in the way the chord progression is simple but very lush. This stands in contrast to “Forever” with a piano loop along with what sounds like a found-sound drum loop. The vocals soar in this one; they are dreamy, reverbed and beautiful. The chorus employs a little more of that 1950’s flavor which seems like a minor theme in this album.
I’m skipping over the track “The Idea is Always Free” (not that it’s not great – it’s got a lot of spoken word qualities – which is cool) only because I love the title track “Superblind” so much which is next.
Sad and upbeat is tricky to pull off well, I think no one did this quality better than The Flaming Lips, but Francis Bowie makes a pretty strong play for equality with those guys. The piano in "Superblind" is played beautifully and with background vocals are so ethereal it sounds very cinematic. All of this serves as a soundbed for the aforementioned dreamy vocals. The chorus sounds an anthem of “Leave your things behind, trust the superblind” is about as catchy as I can write.
Tracks 8, 9, and 10 offer a lot to round out the sound of the album “Don’t Fucking Tell Me” is just aggressive enough to be sympathetic if you are feeling irritated. “Alea Lacta Est” lets me use my college-Latin for once in my life (the die is cast), it’s a very short track but makes for a nice interlude. “Fuck Education” has much the same mood as “Don’t Fucking Tell Me” but it takes quite a bolder stance in a “damn the man” type mentality. As a college professor, I really wish they had been more specific with the chorus sounding “fuck formal education” but the syllables probably wouldn’t work that way.
To me, the winner in the last half of the album (other than the title track) is number 13, “Rollercoaster” a quick song featuring hard hitting pop rhythms, a terrific electro-funk bass line, and a catchy melody. I think fans of late Sneaker Pimps would appreciate this song greatly. Like so many other songs in “Superblind Forever Free” the vocals are helped along by a doubling at the octave – something that is pulled off expertly on this album.
Overall I can say honestly that in my 5-7 listenings of Francis Bowie’s newest release I was able to hear something new and beautiful each time. It’s a remarkable work of indie sounds and I’ll probably have it in rotation for a while still. I’ll look forward to the next release, in the meantime, you should check out “Superblid Forever Free” on Spotify and hop over to the website here: www.francisbowie.com