In case you haven’t noticed, this site mainly focuses on shoegaze, dreampop, slowcore, and other similar forms of ethereal, spacey music. It is rare when we review a CD that isn’t spacey, musically intimate, or droney in some way, shape, or form. But, I’m willing to break tradition here (despite my lack of rock-reviewing vocabulary), and take a look at Fletcher‘s Friends Don’t Speak. Released late in 2003 by the very promising southern label Esperanza Plantation, Friend’s Don’t Speak is a CD full of dirty, loud, screaming, passionate math-type rock. As such, it’ll be a little hard to describe, so bear with me….
Friends Don’t Speak is a hard-hitting collection of loud, crazy, furious rock songs that impress the listener as much with their technicality as their emotional impact. The band, reportedly still in their teens, plays with a reckless abandon that makes the CD sound like a live recording. Yet, the production and sound-quality is extremely polished, even giving Friends Don’t Speak a big-budget feel. That the band can play such eruptive rock in the confines of a studio is amazing, and very telling of the band’s tightness and skill. Stylistically, Fletcher is reminiscent of Roadside Monument (with a little more grit), or perhaps a less sanitized and far more technical Cool Hand Luke. Yet, mere comparisons don’t give Friends Don’t Tell justice, as the band creates their own sound with highly technical guitar lines, time signature changes, and non-traditional song structures. While the music taken as a whole is loud, frantic and desperate in its delivery, stylistically Fletcher does not dabble in hardcore, metal, or even pop-punk. Instead, opting for complicated rhythms and song-structures, and tempering their music with an almost grunge-like vocal delivery, the band carves its own niche in creating aggressive and progressive rock and roll without the heavy rhythm sections, posturing, or excess found in metal or hardcore. What the listener is left with, then, is emotion without pretension. Fletcher rocks hard indeed, but more with a release of emotion rather than insincere swagger. And, it is this transparency in the band’s music that makes lead singer Jess Coppenbarger’s plea “Liberate, something inside of me!” on “Relation Sketch” so believable and powerful.
Friends Don’t Speak begins with the feverish “All in the End”, which is 6+ minute exercise in dizzying song-structure changes and complicated guitar parts. This track blends right into the powerful “Bea Arthur”, with its huge whole of guitars, hand-claps, and highly detailed structure. The energy in this song blows the listener away, and vocalist and band combine in an epic outburst of sound. While Friends Don’t Speak does contain mellower songs such as “Captain’s Orders” and “Redemption/Rejoice”, the CD never loses its tension, with the gruff delivery of Coppenbarger squeezing meaning out of every word, and with the pleading lyrics. Finally, on the eleventh title track, the band grooves onto a slow-burning, and crescendo into an impactful ending. The press release regarding Fletcher asserts “The sonic assault of this album only relents with its conclusion, leaving the listener in the aftermath to reconstruct the songs over and over in his memory”. My thoughts exactly.
In the end, Fletcher delivers an often stunning display of skill and emotion on Friends Don’t Speak. Even music listeners (like myself) who are more inclined to listen to a different style of music than Fletcher’s brand of odd math rock will be impressed at the band’s ability to craft such intentionally detailed songs while still remaining emotional. Friends Don’t Speak is a remarkable debut for such a young band, and showing poise and creativity beyond the band members’ years. I may not listen to such music often as a rule, but I will gladly make an exception for a release as sincere and powerful as this.