One of the advantages of being a long-standing band such as Fendahlene is that you gain plenty of experience to develop your own sound. First airing on corporate radio commercials in Sydney, Australia and being featured in prominent local events, the band has since changed its lineup and relocated to Europe. I must say, Fendahlene’s backstory had me intrigued: a post-hiatus reunion project, with Rolling Stones producer Chris Kismey at the helm? At the very least, I was expecting some breed of rock n’ roll music.
And rock n’ roll music they delivered. Dare I say, it fit the mold perfectly. Now, depending on your tastes, this could be a hit or miss. It definitely reminded me of the Stones in the sense that most songs followed traditional song structures combined with a “honky-tonk” sound. In fact, the production is as no-frills as it gets. As the current climate of the indie scene features an abundance of time-warping effects and ofi echoes, the High and Low and Back Again LP definitely stands out with a barebones sound and direct approach. Fortunately, this leaves all the more space for the writer’s lyrical prowess to shine as well as the instrumentation of each member. Other bands such as R.E.M. and Dave Matthews Band come to mind thanks to Paul Whiteley’s almost rhythmic annunciation and vocal range.
From what I could gather, the lyrical content hinges on feelings of over-stimulation from the technological world all while going through the motions of love and heartbreak. On a personal level, I couldn’t relate as much as I would have liked to as the “technology bad” perspective feels a tad overdone and perhaps resonates less with younger generations. Of course there were also some stand out tracks showcasing impressive pop sensitivity and deliveries: “Speak Out” and “Get Over It” were among my favorites from the LP. “Dead and Gone” was definitely a good choice to send off on, utilizing the band’s signature formula of poetic verses and bombastic choruses.
Matt Ingram held the grooves down with a very modern drumming style, as well as a hard-hitting sound. In combination with Ashley Hurst’s bass playing, this duo could easily cover most bases for rock n’ roll styles. If this rhythm section may sound typical, then surely it also proves it’s tried and true qualities. In fact, it served well to propel Whiteley’s guitar playing and mid-range twang out of the background. It’s easy to appreciate the stripped-back approach when it comes to a good ol’ rock band, but some additional layering on guitars and vocals would have definitely aided in giving depth to each performance.
Although there’s an unmistakable talent and drive permeated throughout the record, it more or less left a lasting impression on me as I am not a huge fan of legacy acts such as the Stones or Stipe and co. to begin with, and I didn’t feel like Fendahlene brought anything much different to the table in the context of the new decade, but on the plus side, this means it’s definitely a release to check out if you’re a fan of the genre.
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Chris Aitkens