Fruit Bats – Tripper album review

Tripper is a shoegaze album that recalls Vampire Weekend, with a few lazy acoustic guitar riffs. Eric Johnson’s voice has the high coyness of T-Rex’s Marc Bolan. The effect is one weird album. And, for a band from Austin, TX, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. At once dreamy, nostalgic, and surreal, Tripper doesn’t take itself too seriously.

For an album so rife with sixties and seventies references, this irreverence is appropriate. It doesn’t sound too much like they’re trying to bring anything back, even though the album does recall the days of live music in the Capital. The Fruit Bats know how to play nostalgia without making it corny, and they milk it for all its worth.

Some songs are upbeat, and others feature minor melodies and soulful laments- “to penetrate pure life, you gotta suffer some. Then what remains of you is pure, and genuine, as wild honey.” The “pure life” and carefreeness captured by rock and roll in its youth, with all its highs and lows, is what Tripper is about. The songs would work on a live set and would also make sense as an album put together by struggling musicians. Tripper is the result of shiny new shoegaze mixed with folk music.

The shoegaze influence in Tripper pervades the early half of the album, fading into folk rock nostalgia in the last few tracks. It seems like the Fruit Bats felt the need to update their music to keep up with the times. It works, and their music stays relevant, but in a way that would still appeal to those who love rock. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they’re no Vampire Weekend.

There are a few ska beats on Tripper, but the influence is minimal. The shoegaze influence is there, but it yields to acoustic folk melodies. The Fruit Bats are exactly the kind of thing one would expect on a weekend night at Armadillo. They’re very nostalgic, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tripper is a rock album with enough modern influence to avoid being characterized as dad rock.

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