fair-ohs-album

Once upon a time, London trio Fair Ohs were called Big Fucking Deal. They were playing hardcore thrash like the three members had done in numerous other bands before. They carried on mimicking Black Flag when they were called Thee Fair Ohs too, only to one day realise how bored they were and that they all secretly liked Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ as much as ‘Damaged’, so they started making the kind of island melodies and tropical afro-punk that makes up this, their debut album.

It makes for a deadly cocktail of criticism, turning your back on the hardcore punk scene and doing so for a cluster of genres that are supposed victims of cruel Westernisation. But while “white appropriation of African music” is an easy (and semi-justified) sneer – that’s been levelled at everyone from Vampire Weekend to The Very Best and Simon himself – it’d be foolish to let it stand in the way of enjoying a record as knowingly influenced and celebratory as ‘Everything Is Dancing’.

Key to the album’s success is that the band haven’t shed their DIY punk skin altogether. They’re not barking anymore (singer Eddy delivers an almost nasal-like tone these days), nor are they playing at a hundred miles per hour, but the reverberating arpeggios, the rumbling drums, the major-key bass hooks, they’re all played loosely and with a feeling of bubbly, slapdash rhythm rather than Brit School musicianship – not unlike pre-electronic Abe Vigoda. It’s prevalent from the opening ‘Baldessari’ that slips and slides between child-like verses that are nothing if not naively, very, very happy.

It’s summer music, ultimately, which, again, is more easily dismissed than something that gets you through an endless winter of heartbreaks. But anyone with a working ear will tell you that it’s far harder to pull off joyous without it leaving behind vomit stains, and on ‘Colours’, particularly, Fair Ohs muster bittersweet euphoria like few others. It’s a track that sees them leave behind the over-excited pace they often share with friends Male Bonding (which they pursue to perfectly dappy effect on ‘Eden Rock’ and the more-punk-less-tropical ‘Katasraj’), dipping into African psych and a groove where the band usually bounce. The chorus itself is full of doubt and despair, but you won’t notice that.

‘Everything Is Dancing’ then flourishes with Indian string work; ‘Helio’ could be Arabic in its main riff, and is most probably influenced by Syrian superstar Omar Souleyman.

Previous singles ‘Almost Island’ and ‘Summer Lake’ are both here too, the latter closing the record and the former now with an ambient wash of noise in tow by means of a two-minute outro, which would be completely pointless if it didn’t act as a trippy interlude between all of the dizzy sway. And most impressive of all: for a beach album, ‘Everything Is Dancing’ manages to sound nothing like any of those bands imploring us to go surf. It’s an exotically playful and rather innovative punk record.

By Stuart Stubbs

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