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Fish On Friday - Airborne CD (album) cover

AIRBORNE

Fish On Friday

 

Crossover Prog

3.88 | 52 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Airborne' - Fish on Friday (7/10)

Today, it is Thursday, and I am drinking a now-lukewarm cup of coffee. Less than an hour ago, I had a ham sandwich. Given these circumstances, it's a refreshing change of pace to hear Fish on Friday, a relatively new Belgian ensemble. Taking after the Alan Parsons Project, here's a band that incorporates the best elements of pop and progressive rock, creating a sound both clever and catchy. "Airborne" is their second album thus far, and while I have never heard of them before listening tonight, it's clear that they have plenty of musical experience and maturity. Fish on Friday's sound is perhaps a little tame by contemporary prog standards, but the songwriting's smart and the musicianship is top notch. Who could plausibly ask for more in a pop-prog crossover?

Fish on Friday start off "Airborne" with a fantastic opener. "Welcome" is a great showcase of their sound. Reminiscent of the clever pop sensibilities of latter-era Genesis, Fish on Friday maintain a strong focus on melody, backing up the surface catchiness with a thick production and versatile musicianship. Although proggers will be first drawn towards the cameo of the well-versed Nick Beggs (of Steves Hackett and Wilson fame), the glory on "Welcome" lies in the way so many different sounds are used. It's still based around a concise pop structure, but there's symphonic string and horn samples, soulful guitar leads, ambient atmosphere and subtle vocal effects all tossed into the mix. Were it not for the extent Fish on Friday have gone to make the music a sonic feast in regards to the production, "Welcome" would not sound out of place on a popular radio station. Take that as you will.

"Airborne" has a strong sense of diversity to it. Each song sounds generally different from the one that came before. Other highlights include the Porcupine Tree-ish "This Cruel World" and the Floydian anthem "Back to Your Moon". Although there is a clever versatility in the songwritng however, the songs themselves rarely change up their pace once they've locked themselves in a certain mood. Whether its a slow, atmospheric ballad or something a little more rock-oriented, listeners won't find themselves too surprised once hearing the first minute or so of each track. It's certainly not an adventurous experience musically, especially for the more seasoned progressive listeners out there. "Airborne" is kept largely afloat through the way its executed. The production here is excellent and wonderfully mixed, and the depth of the arrangements keeps it interesting on the second and third listen. One thing that's less successful here however are the lyrics. Although there are exceptions where the sentimental approach really works (on "This Cruel World" and the irrevocably sincere "Alien City"), the lyrics often feel cheesy, particularly when phrases and painfully unfitting expletives are used. It's a small concern in the overall scheme of the music, but it does serve to detract from what is otherwise a remarkably solid pop album.

Fish on Friday are lodged somewhere between the melancholy of Porcupine Tree, the atmosphere and warm vocal harmonies of Pink Floyd and the upbeat pop of 1980's Genesis. It's rare that I enjoy an album so much on the first listen. Unfortunately, repeated listens do not do much for the experience. Although Fish on Friday have a solid depth to their sound, the songwriting offers all tricks up front, and this robs "Airborne" of a 'grower' effect when it comes to follow-up listens. Of course, as a pop-based record, the key is in the immediate enjoyment, and this is something "Airborne" succeeds in wholeheartedly. In playing it safe, Fish on Friday have managed to make something enjoyable and intelligent.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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