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  Fairburn Royals  
Release Date:
  circa April.2003  
Reviewed by:

As you know by now, EvilSponge is an online review site. Therefore, it kinda makes sense that we occasionally hear about online musical offerings. So I wasn’t too surprised when I heard that the Fairburn Royals were offering a 4 song EP, downloadable from their own website.

The Fairburn Royals are another one of those Athens band in whom I seem to specialize. When I saw them the first time back in January, I thought they were pretty solid. However, when we saw them open for Bettie Serveert in April, they pretty much brought the house down. A solid four piece which seems to cross many genres and influence, Fairburn Royals are an interesting enough band, whose previously recorded output hasn’t always measured up to their live shows.

Anyway, I took the band’s advice and listened to this 4 song EP of re-recorded tracks from their back catalogue in the order they suggested. The first song, Secretary’s Day, is easily the strongest song in the bunch and was originally off the band’s first album, The Sunshine Slowdown. It’s a nice post-punk tune that reminds me a little of Sharks and Minnows’ slower stuff, with a particularly emphasis on the drumming and some essential organ work which doesn’t overwhelm the overall song. More importantly, you can hear lead singer Matt Lisle’s voice, which is almost pretty in this context, as he sings about being an under-employed and ignored corporate cog.

Lonesome Townie Blues is the next song, which had been previously released on Fairburn Royal’s most recent album, From A Window Way Above. The version on this EP is a different recording. It has a nice 6/8 rhythm, which brings out the sing-along-with-the-band qualities. What’s most interesting to me about this song is how different Fairburn Royals sound from the previous track. Instead of having the post-punk vibe of Secretary’s Day, this song is much more reminiscent of the slightly-psychedelic/mod wave of sound approach that seems so dominate in the Athens scene these days, and about which you’ll never hear me complain.

As you might imagine from my description above, the third track, Outta Mind, doesn’t sound like either of the first two songs. This is the song I remember most from Fairburn Royals’ live shows and lead me to compare this band to The Poster Children. Hearing this recording, I stand by the comparison: this song has the same slightly off-kilter beat that you’d expect from The Poster Children, and Matt Lisle has the same almost nasal, almost helium-voiced vocals as Rick Valentin. Furthermore, the crunchy guitars and anthemic nature of the song could be from many of the bands you’d find in the mid-90s Champaign music scene.

In contrast, the last track Sunshine Slowdown begins like a Vic Chesnutt song with a simple hymn-like guitar melody that complements the vocals. However, after a minute or so the full band kicks in and adds bouncy, jangly accompaniment to the still slightly slower vocal line. It’s an interesting combination, as if Fairburn Royals had managed to combine two different songs into one unified whole. Nevertheless, despite the moments of rock, Sunshine Slowdown has a leisurely, summerish feel to it, which isn’t present on any of the other songs.

Taken individually, each of the 4 songs on the Free EP is quite strong and a good demonstration of Fairburn Royals’ growing strength as a band and as songwriters. However, the combination of songs into one EP suggests a more scattered approach to their music, where the songs don’t necessarily link or flow into one another. Instead, it feels more like the sampler it is, which is perhaps my greatest complaint. The only other issue I have with the EP is the suggested track listing. By placing the two strongest songs at the front of the EP, the remaining two songs (which are good nonetheless) seem more like throwaways. Nevertheless, as a statement of where Fairburn Royals are at, and where they perhaps are going, the Free EP serves them well, and is certainly worth checking out.

Related Links:
  Fairburn Royals in concert!  

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