There are a number of guarantees that you always get with a Fred's House album before you even get to the music, the attention to detail on the packaging is always spot on. From the fold out cover of "Faultlines" with each panel dedicated to a portrait of a member of the band through to the scrapbook appearance of the new record, the cover being the heads of lead singers Griff and Vikki with reviews of gig superimposed over the top and the cd booklet which details many of the highlights that the band have had to date as well as helpfully providing the lyrics.
The expectation is also that Fred's House will deliver a varied palette of music and once again they certainly deliver that with possibly their most varied set of tunes to date. The album has been produced against the backdrop of a relationship split between the two chief songwriters and lead vocalists Griff and Vikki and such emotional turmoil always tends to lead to bursts of exceptional creativity.
The album opens with the live favourite "This Little Boy" in a rerecorded rocking electric version as opposed to the acoustic one that appeared on the "Looking Glass" EP. Capturing all of the joy of their live performances, there is inventive guitar work from Lachlan Golder as well, the driving percussion of Paul Richards and the full on vocals at the chorus of Vikki and Griff - It all makes for a great start.
The other songs previously released are "Never Gonna Love You" and "Can We Just Pretend", the double "A" single from earlier in the year that really announced that this album would be something different, the video for the latter now seems even more emotional that it did at the time of release with the news that Griff will be leaving the band at the end of the year.
The title track "Careless" opens to a gentle keyboard and and soft acoustic guitars before unleashing one of the most personal and intimate songs of the year. The lyrics open on a 35th birthday, but this is no typical birthday, it arrives on the backdrop of a relationship split and the hurt is etched into every line. As the song picks up there are many more guitar lines to admire and a chorus that rocks and ends suddenly on the third outing.
"Keep It To Myself" adds a trombone and beautiful cello and violin section that builds up to a tremendous finale in what is another deeply personal song - Griff's vocals on both of these songs being outstanding.
The next song "Forget About It" immediately puts you off guard opening to just a drumbeat and some sporadic guitar and some occasional trombone, the vocals see Griff & Vikki simultaneously sharing vocal duties and the song comes with a curiously loud guitar in comparison to the rest of the track - it's sounds like nothing the Fred's have done before and is quite attention grabbing - there is also a powerful rocking chorus on this intriguing track.
Things take another turn musically with "I'm Not Saying", which opens on a bass guitar and has a retro feel to it and matches a joyful tune to quite dark subject matter. The singer is almost the subject of an intervention, her friends they "Call ten times a day" and she has to say "Stop saying i'm depressed" while at the same time there are clues that this might be the case as she's "Hiding from the daylight" and noting that "a bottle or 2 is not a sin". The chorus is a strident defence of their mental health yet the vulnerability of the final "I'm fine" leaves the listener in two minds. There's a huge amount going on in this sub 5 minute song.
"Bad Place" is a guitar driven song and joins ska like verses to a new wave powerpop chorus. It has a raw live feel to it and captures the Fred's House at full pelt. Things slow again for "I Can't Call You Mine" which comes with a sublime chorus, Once again the stings of cello and violin provide the extra instrumentation that lift this song to another level,
Of all the songs on the album possibly the simplest musically is "Charity Shop Song", as it is just two acoustic guitars, and predominantly Vikki's voice. The items described "the suit that's got a pocket with a hole", "the china bowl" and most tellingly of all "A silver photo frame" where "The picture's not the same".
The album closes with "Sooner Or Later", possibly the definitive classic pop song on the album, Vikki's vocals are quite outstanding and the band performance is faultless, with little touches of piano, guitar and trombone making a perfect track. The lyrics like much of the album seem to address the end of a relationship, "I no longer blame myself to think of you with someone else".
This third album delivers on all fronts, it is both musically adventurous and lyrically deep. This band always deliver whether it is on record or in live performance. When you get to the end of the record though and look back at the album cover those expressions look all the more poignant.
The current line up of Fred House have just four dates left to play, they promise to be highly charged and events not to be missed.
Nov 20 Tue 229 The Venue Careless Album Launch with Lisa Wright
Nov 24 Sat Cambridge Junction - Album Launch Party with Rebecca Ffion
Dec 1 Sat Newbald Village Hall York
Dec 5 Wed The Guildhall Norwich