Fear the Dean’s debut album sounds like a FIDLAR album, but with a much more tame and lighthearted emotional core. They both filter obvious pop-punk and hardcore influences through a weirdness that seems to stem from psychedelic and surf rock. The songs are catchy and hazy, while also melodic and monstrous.
“Ticket Out of Norway” sounds like an outtake from Blink 182‘s pop-punk classic Dude Ranch. The guitar riff on “Sucker For You” is heavy and pounding, and so are the drums. The vocals, like on the rest of the record, are distorted to make them sound more passive, which creates a curious contrast. The chaotic nature of the music is calmly reacted to, while the lyrics fill in some of the emotional distance. “Sucker For You” also has cute lyrics encapsulating the angst of an unrequited crush without slipping into hateful misogynistic tropes, something I’m psyched to see in modern a pop-punk band.
“Pirate Playset” is one of the album’s heaviest songs, thanks in part to super fuzzy and crushing guitar parts, but also a particularly impassioned vocal performance. Instead of the usual blasé, sinister cadence, Alex Izzo sounds emboldened and, by comparison, enraged. “I Hope Your Dress Gets Dirty” continues this vocally emotional trend. At the two-and-a-half-minute mark, everything but Alex’s guitar and vocal effects are briefly stripped away, and he sounds frightened and spiteful. “Home Alone” is the closest thing this record has to a ballad. Though closing track “New York, I Love You” matches “Home Alone” in drama, it lacks grandiosity. This plays in its favor though, since it’s a pleasant comedown after such a wild ride.
“Three’s A Crowd” opens with the cadence of a Black Keys song, but quickly morphs into something more like Warning-era Green Day. “Alive” is heavy and menacing, reminiscent of alt metal bands like Chevelle, due in part to its super catchy chorus and to the closest to screaming Alex ever comes on this record. “Social Media Stalker” opens with a very familiar riff that reminds me of “My Own Worst Enemy” by brief ’90s stars Lit. The lyrics are boring, and the drums drown out pretty much all of the other instruments, making this my least favorite song on the record. The track “Abercrombie Models” doesn’t really stand out in either a negative or a positive way.
This album mixes influences that I otherwise might not have believed would sound good or coherent together. The sonic diversity kept me on my toes, and the melodic familiarity made it a satisfying listen. I was overjoyed to discover that Fear the Dean is a local Montreal act, and I look forward to the chance to see them live. I’m particularly curious to see how the vocal effects play out in a live setting.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Kate Erickson