F.O.D. - Sleepville

F.O.D. - Sleepville

14 songs
39:26 minutes
***** *****
Bearded Punk / Wiretap / Thousand Islands

Bandpage

Itís been three years since I last heard of Belgian pop punk band F.O.D., and then out of the blue, I received their new longplayer Sleepville, co-released on three record labels. Having left their last label must have reinvigorated the quartet, because at the risk of repeating myself, but once again F.O.D. are taking their chosen genre to a whole new level. If in the past these improvements were not that huge, then you should really brace yourself for something this time.

The first half of the album contains eight songs, none of which make it over three minutes. But that doesnít mean that youíll get formulaic punk tracks. Instead the opener Sleepville Guaranteed starts like a small symphonic piece, performed on double bass, horn, oboe, violin and viola, before it erupts into one of the bandís trademark punk songs with unforgettable melodies. The following Days Of Future Passed sees the band acting by itself, but that doesnít prevent them from being just as great. F.O.D. lie somewhere in the middle of the triangle formed by Green Day, Bad Religion and Weezer, always trumping with wonderful multi-vocal lines and an infectious catchiness hard to find elsewhere. Fall In Line surprises with a pedal steel guitar running through the song, before Riverview suddenly falls into a 3/4 rhythm, giving it an atypical Waltz feeling. Feeling Gay continues toppling our expectations, by adding a clarinet part that makes this feel like a jolly walk through a park in springtime. Wrong is a more straightforward punk song under two minutes, before we get another catchy track with Food For Thought, and an even more memorable song with the incredible On An Island that will have you sing along in no time at all. On the surface, F.O.D.ís music may sound like happy pop punk, but underneath it all lurks an undeniable melancholy, which is what keeps it all so moving and therefore interesting.

The second half of the album is even more experimental, starting with the five-minute-long Annie. This track has a similar beginning to that of the A-side, but plays more with its symphonic elements, but also having some straight punk rock moments, making this something like the Bohemian Rhapsody of punk rock. The following Stranger In Town may not even be two minutes long, but its half-minute intro consisting of multiple vocal lines is a clear nod to progressive rock legends Gentle Giant, and the following instrumental part is further proof that these guys must have listened to some prog rock lately. Changes Rise and Thirtysomething And Counting are less experimental but of course still great melodic punk songs. Coda is an instrumental that is played on acoustic guitar and fiddle, sounding like an Irish folk piece, before the album ends on the seven-minute epic Main Street, so far the bandís longest track. The middle part contains a horn part that gives it the mood of a brass band. The song finally ends with a melody on a music box, which, if you have the album on repeat, is also how the first song started.

Earlier in this review, I compared F.O.D. to three other bands, and here is why. They have the melodic ingenuity and pop sensibility of Weezer, the vocal harmonies of Bad Religion and the balls of Green Day, another punk band that tried their hand at a punk rock opera. But frankly, F.O.D. take is further, by adding symphonic and progressive rock elements. At times you might feel reminded of Queen, Alice Copperís Welcome To My Nightmare or Gentle Giant in a punk mood. Sleepville is furthermore a concept album, and the vinyl version comes with an actual book retelling the story. I donít want you to believe this to be hyperbole, but Sleepville might just be the best pop punk album to have ever been released on this planet. It might appeal especially to me because I rather fancy vintage prog rock, but even as a regular pop punk fan, you might find yourself surprised at the vastness of ideas thrown at you.

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