Review: Fran King and Beautification
Hey Grasshoppers! Fiskum’s erudite musical discourse today is about Fran King and his first solo album, Beautification. Mr. King is a singer / songwriter from Ireland. Since my ethics are (somewhat) higher than those of your average divorce attorney, I’ve already disclosed my bias toward artists who can combine lyrics and melodies in new and interesting ways.
Mr. King is one such artist. (For some reason, I’ve recently been fixated on artists from the UK; but I remain hopeful you guys will hip me to the next big American sound. Leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendations for next week’s review.)
Fran King writes beautiful melodies. Beautification brings to mind Revolver-style Beatles compositions. The vocals and instrumental textures bring to mind Crowded House, the New Zealand band powered by the Finn Brothers (“Don’t Dream Its Over”, guys.). Lots of acoustic guitars in the forefront of the mix; lots of clever vocal hooks reaching up toward his falsetto, sometimes getting there and sometimes not.
The third track on Beautification, “Misunderstood”, is as up-tempo as Fran King gets.The tune doesn’t scream, but has some really skillfull and understated guitar work.
Fran King has a nice enough voice, though these days one never knows whether it’s live or Pro Tools. But it’s not his voice selling the songs. And the lyrics aren’t that profound, either. What sells the songs on Beautification is more of an overall ambience resulting from the combination of instrumentation (mostly acoustic guitars, once in a while some piano or other keyboard pad), a decent lead voice, pretty back-up vox, and a compositional style sometimes relying on chromatic mediants and chormatic sub mediants—a compositional technique hip and trendy in the late 1960s. (Think the changes to “Windy” or just about any song by Jim Webb.)
Beautification doesn’t have Eddie Van Halen-style, balls-to-the-wall guitar hystronics. Nonetheless, the style of music on Beautification is eminently useful. Consider this—if I were wrapping up the third date with a new girlfriend, and we’d just come back to my place after an evening of frolicking, a great dinner, drinks and bowling, and we were going to sit together on the couch in candlelight, under a fuzzy blanket, knock back a shot or two of Wild Turkey Rare Breed, and there was a blizzard starting up outside, I’d play Beautification.
Footnote: I can hear you guys asking “Who gives a frig about blizzards in April?” I do. I’m Minnesotan. We had a blizzard here this past weekend. For true 15 inches of snow about. Oofda.
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