Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Album Review: Leopards by Fair Do's (by Brett Coomer)

Fair Do’s arrived on my radar at the very start of the year with the final band announcement for MPF 2018. Thanks to Colin’s recommendation I was immediately hooked on their 5 song EP Trying Times. I was excited to be seeing them at MPF and really hoping for a new release from them soon.

Fast forward a few months and the quartet did not disappoint, putting on an exceptional show at MPF and finally announcing their debut full length, Leopards. The highly anticipated album was recorded with Dave Boothroyd at Reel Recording Studio over almost two years’ worth of weekends and will be released by Lockjaw Records. I was excited by and jumped at the opportunity to preview the album and write a review.

The Queen of England starts the album off with an excerpt from a 2016 speech to the houses of parliament. Described as “most gracious” on the UK government website, her words are gradually drowned out by building guitars and drums culminating with a surrounding whoosh to kick things into gear.

There’s no holding back, right from the opening track ‘Royal Flush’. It offers some well-placed jabs at the royal family, its outdated traditions, unnatural hierarchy and its involvement in the economy and politics of the country. After the first song ends with a nice little flurry of notes, ‘Distress Call’ is introduced with a slower drum beat, overlaid with some nice guitar and bass riffs. One of the slower songs on the album, it provides a change of pace while still keeping up the energy.

‘Cowabunga’ is probably my favourite song on the album, combining both technical brilliance with some catchy hooks and a title referencing one of my favourite TV shows as a kid. Flawlessly flowing between some techy riffs and beautiful melody, the song encapsulates everything I love about punk. I can’t remember if they played it live at MPF, but I feel that it should definitely be a staple in their set.

If you’re not sure what to expect from a 6+ minute hardcore punk song, Fair Do’s have got you covered. ‘Hanging’, with a gut-punching minute and half intro that fills the space around you, builds into a song that brings all the best parts of Fair Do’s together, including a 35 second guitar solo that makes you want to lift your fret hand into the air and wiggle your fingers with joy. The song has just the right amount of everything needed to keep you captivated to the end.

‘Closing In’, which is the first single off the album, starts off with a catchy and pop-punky melody and then drives into a fast, technical skate punk song with a message of getting through difficult times and choices, staying positive, and always moving forward. It’s a great choice for a single and would be the song I’d choose to put on a mixtape. ‘Hostile Company’ was released with an accompanying video back in 2016 and is one of the more melodic songs on the album. With an impactful “pre-chorus” and some great sing-a-long parts, the song fits in perfectly with the rest of Leopards.

Following two single-worthy songs is the hardest and shortest song of the album. ‘Candleman’ definitely has a more hardcore feel, channelling the likes of Raised Fist showing us all that Fair Do’s are not going to be slowing down any time soon.

Maybe to offer some relief, ‘In The Mean Time’ starts with a slow intro, but it quickly escalates into some technical verse riffs separated by great breakdowns. The guitar work makes me think of Protest The Hero but definitely still with a Fair Do’s flavour.

The last two songs make sure the album finishes strong, ‘Lose My Touch’ includes some frantic stop-start riffs and a masterful melody, putting it on par with the catchiness of songs like Hostile Company. This is fast, technical hardcore punk at its best.

The final song, ‘Carried Away’, is a great way to round off the album (and apparently started with a Facebook post about St George’s day and the ridiculousness of being proud of where you’re born.). The song showcases the technical abilities of all the band members, and although technical ability doesn’t mean much if you can’t use it to construct a good song, this is something that Fair Do’s have proven not to be a problem for them throughout the album.

Despite the long and spread out time taken to write, practice, and record the album, all of the songs fit together cohesively and there is nothing that feels out of place. The band shares song writing duties and it’s clear that all of the members hold themselves to a high standard, delivering a tight and finely tuned collection of songs that exceed the expectations of a debut with ease. The vocals delivered by Danny, Josh and John are a perfect fit and all come together to create the Fair Do’s dynamic sound.

Not enough can be said about the musicianship on display here, I have seen some videos of Dave playing guitar and it is awe inspiring. His talent, as well as that of the other members, is evident throughout the album. The complex nature of the songs on Leopards is proof that each band member is at the top of their game.

Branded by many as skate punk, Fair Do’s also add some hardcore and metal into the mix to create something quite unique. While listening I can’t help but think of the number of influences these guys bring together, taking cues from the best of hardcore and punk while they precisely execute their melodic but not-straightforward brand of skate-hardcore-punk.

Whichever label you’d like to brand Fair Do’s with, Leopards is a fantastic album by a talented bunch of guys that showcases just how great the UK scene can be. It’s one of my favourites this year so far and I highly recommend pre-ordering it and checking them out while on tour.

Pre-order Leopards here: https://lockjawrecords.bandcamp.com/album/leopards

Like Fair Do's here: https://www.facebook.com/fairdosband/

This review was written by Brett Coomer.

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