Nothing but the truth



What do you think of when you think Phatfish? Powerchords, smoke machines, melodies dripping with honey, acid jazz, commitment to Jesus, friendliness, Christ-like appearance, almost completed recording studios, passion, risk, consistency? All of these, plus tears. I cannot help but be moved by the consistent determination shown by these guys to serve the church, honour God in their personal lives, bless the kingdom with quality songs and entertain in so many musical ways.

This new album is rather different from the previous release, Hope. Reconnecting to the national grid has had a powerful impact on their energy and style, and they've acknowledged this with a strong plug image on p11 of the booklet. Apart from an incident with an angry wasp, and the bit where the lead keyboard voice reminds me of those 1970's Rolf Harris Stylophones having swallowed one of Keith Moon's gorilla sedatives, this is a great album! Lou's voice is as exciting as ever, with crystal top notes, exactly the right amount of diction and glucose delivery. She may have changed her hair (nothing new in that) but it's only cosmetic.

Just a thought: I know it's style and moodiness, but when at last we get actual photos of the chaps in the full-colour 12-page booklet (and on the tray card) they're all looking like they've just had their bottoms smacked (except the one of Alan in the toilet - and that sounds a bit rude, but it's just a tiled background to which I refer). Having laughed long and loud with these people, it might be nice to reflect their charm and wit (though I must admit that the Mona Lisa enigmatic-ness of Lou's stifled grin on p2 is almost a smile)... But I'm very sad and wrinkly and I don't understand.

Track by track (full value reviewing, or what?)
Opener To You King Jesus features a lovely warm guitar tone, and yet it still has that anthemic style. For me is Alan's strong melodic contribution, complete with powerchords and Romans 8 confidence. Marvellous. Unshakeable. And he gets into a whining, bendy guitar solo with a Holdsworth lick, which is very exciting.

I was rather impressed with Nathan's Annoy, which is a brilliant setting of Matthew 7:1-5, full of sarcasm, wisdom, honesty and challenge. And the way Lou asks, I'm much more inclined to try. And then, last night, I was privilged to be at a premiere of the animated video for this track, which has been created by another Fellingham relative. It's funny, creative, thought-provoking and has an appropriate pop at Lou.

Then comes another Alan number, I Want You, which arrives heavily disguised. His tunes are great, and this one is supported by a fascinating arpeggio-style, understated twiddle, which lets the love through without smothering it in passion, if you know what I mean. Don't worry, the snortingly filthy guitar sound and Pete Townsend attitude break in after a while. It all subsides again, leaving Bertie's nimble fingers doing their magic, And then it runs away with Leslie and drawbars and splendidness.

Top track to my taste is God made man, which achieves the seemingly impossible: to draw worship from the listener without use of the phrase 'We worship you'. Raw theology, processed through choppy guitar, with one of the best examples of Lou's gift since the perfect, perfect Your Love on Hope.

And then it all goes a bit, well, different. I like it, but that's only because I have a wide music taste and quite a lot of respect for a good groove. Here I Stand, and Nathan's hat goes blurry while Alan chases aforementioned flying insect through the speaker cabinets. A tight segue into Once And for All gets back to what we expect - Hammond, thrash metal and the solid underpinning from the Lukemeister.

Bertie claims that the original sounds he chose for the lick in This is what My God is Like were nicer than the Keith Moon effect we have on the finished article, but he was advised by the others. It's the only tentative moment in an otherwise confident piece of work. Once Lou comes in, it's fine. Except when she stops and the Stylophone re-occurs. It's a personal opinion thing. You'll love it, I expect. Take no notice of my comments; I'm probably in a bad mood or something. The lyrics here are clear, unmistakeably Bertie and they rest very gently on my auditory equipment. Alan does his Jazz Rooms thang, and pulls it off. But The Who return for a final spasm at the end, which is a speck in my own eye.

Then comes Vision, the first of two experiments. A slight touch of the Lewis Taylor influence? Why fiddle with Lou's tone? I suppose it's the modern style, and it sounds fine, except I love her natural, full-on vocal talent. There is some excellent keyboard work here, and a lot of twiddling with the stereo pan, which is interesting.

Final track is called Stepping Out, and the golden tonsils give full glory to wonderfully-written lyrics, with an attractive, memorable tune and there's a fascinating chord structure for top value. It's all there: faith, challenge, chugging axe, jazz chords, a dream sequence, audible beevees, a lick, a groove, fill your boots reverb and a mid-air ending. Nice one, guys!

In conclusion
I like. I listen often, and it grows. And I liked it a lot the first time, so I'm getting to like it a whole lot more. Buy, listen, enjoy, learn, worship God, serve him.

Question: what equipment do you think Joseph Townend and Alan's mum lend?