Classic Nada is a series wherein we share lost articles from our first ten years, 1997-2007, so that we may simultaneous recall past glory and mock our former selves. The Fruit Bats celebrate the 10 year anniversary of their signature album, Mouthfuls, on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at the Neptune Theater. (Buy tickets.)
ALive & Kicking
The Fruit Bats @ Chop Suey
March 18, 2004
By Eric Tognetti
The credo of the rock and roll fan, as we know, is “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
While I might not be “too old” just yet, I can tell you that one thing I learned from the recent Fruit Bats show at Chop Suey: I might be on my way. During the set, I made a conscious note to myself that it’s awfully damn nice to be able to enjoy a show without having to jam my ears full of Styrofoam or toilet paper.
You see, the Fruit Bats make pretty songs, and pretty songs don’t hurt my ears. Even when those songs rock a little – and the Fruit Bats weren’t afraid to let loose and rock on a few numbers – they’re still, well, pretty. And I don’t use that word in a diminishing way. In fact, I think it’s a much more difficult accomplishment to make small, pretty songs that can’t hide flaws behind noise.
This show marked the start of something of a new era for the Fruit Bats. The band is in town to record an album for Sub Pop, and main Bat Eric Johnson delivered on his promise of some new songs. Also of note was the absence of the only other permanent member the band has ever had, Gillian Lisée, who recently split amicably from the group to spend more time at home in Chicago and less time in a smelly van. Finally, the set marked the return of original member Dan Strack who left years ago to move to Seattle, playing an impressive textured lead guitar.
The show kicked off just as it should have: with the most uncommonly pretty of the Fruit Bats pretty songs, “A Bit of Wind.” Johnson and crew then meandered through some favorites from both Mouthfuls ) and their debut release Echolocation, including “When U Love Somebody” and “The Little Acorn”, as well as some new material.
I’ve always been impressed with Johnson’s ability to craft a song. He incorporates consistently intelligent lyrical imagery and constantly exhibits an innate grasp of progressions which make a melody interesting when it could easily be predictable.
More impressive, however, is how the songs stand up live, stripped of the production tricks that pepper both albums. Similarly, Johnson’s plaintive and simple voice is just as effective live as it is recorded – perhaps more. Accompanied by harmonies alternating between all three of his band mates, he belted strong notes reminiscent of local favorite Robb Benson of Dear John Letters, with a little less Paul McCartney and a touch more twang.
The show closed with an encore, including a very unexpected cover of Pallas’ “Atlantis,” much to the disappointment of at least a few who were screaming for “Purple Rain,” apparently a Fruit Bats fan favorite.
And so I left, happy to have heard some of my Fruit Bats favorites, excited for the new songs that promise another warm breeze of an album, and relieved not to be extricating plugs from my ears.