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The Fatty Acids Piece Together Another Statement

Feb. 21, 2017
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Music Gateway: Fatty Acids by Lucian McAfee
Photo credit: Lucian McAfee

Last time we heard from The Fatty Acids they were doing a little bit of everything. The group’s 2013 album Boléro was perhaps the busiest Milwaukee album of that year, a big-top circus of somersaulting, confetti-throwing, barnstorming psychedelic pop. Each song played out like a death match between three or four competing ideas. If Taco Bell’s gonzo breakfast menu had a soundtrack, it would probably sound a lot like that record.

This week, after a three-and-a-half-year gap, The Fatty Acids will release their follow-up album, Dogs of Entertainment, on Gloss Records. It’s still unmistakably a Fatty Acids album, a veritable Plinko board of beachy riffs, giddy keyboards, tangled-VHS-tape guitar tones and goopy, lava-lamp harmonies, but this record does something Boléro never did: It breathes.

“A lot of people have called it our mature album, and I guess I can see that,” says drummer Cole Quamme. “I don’t know if it’s just us getting older or kind of settling down, but it does seem a little more focused, a little more serious. I guess it’s more straightforward—not so scrambly.

“I think on some level we did kind of decide, maybe not vocally or outright, this time to try to make some songs that weren’t seven-minutes long or three different songs put into one,” Quamme continues. “I’m sure there’s still one or two of those on the album, of course.”

As a result, Dogs of Entertainment may be the first Fatty Acids albums where the eccentricities don’t upstage the songs. And like a shocking amount of albums released already this year, even the ones written and recorded well before last November, its songs take on an eerie relevance in the Trump era. The central image on “Try Not To Freak Out About It” of somebody plastered to a computer screen, knowing damn well they’re not going to like what they’re about to see couldn’t be more relatable; it’s pretty much the way we all consume news now. Even when its concerns are more interpersonal than political—on “Sportskin” frontman Josh Evert cheers “I was born to be the world’s greatest ex-boyfriend!”—the album’s weary, jittery posture seems perfectly pitched to the times.

“I think it’s a darker album, a bleaker album than our last one, and I don’t know what this means, but the album makes way more sense under a Trump presidency,” singer/keyboardist Evert says. “I mean Donald Trump is my definition of a dog of entertainment, and a lot of the album is about trying to battle cynicism and trying to stay active.”

One holdover from previous Fatty Acids records is the unconventional, DIY self-production. Evert recently opened a studio in the Silver City neighborhood called Silver City Studios with Graham Hunt of Midnight Reruns and Andrew Jambura of Sat. Nite Duets. Having access to that space “might have some exciting implications for The Fatty Acids,” Evert says. “We’ll have more time to experiment and maybe achieve some sounds we haven’t in the past.” For this album, though, they recorded it like the others, on their own, figuring it out as they went along.

“I’ve always had a philosophy that how good an album sounds depends on how much you care,” Evert says. “If you think a Fatty Acids record sounds good, it’s just because we put hours and hours into it. I’m sure there are people with more refined ears than I have who could pick the sound apart, but some of my favorite records technically sound terrible. Like, the one that always comes to mind is Iron and Wine’s The Creek Drank The Cradle. That’s one of my favorite records of all time, but if you listen close, the white noise is so bad it’s like you almost can’t handle it. It’s so lo-fi, but it doesn’t even matter, because when you hear the songs you forget about that. So my attitude is, if you love something, if you really love the project you’re working on, you can fake the technicalities.”

The Fatty Acids will play two release shows for Dogs of Entertainment: an all-ages one at Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co., 224 W. Bruce St., with Zed Kenzo, Phat Nerds and Aloha Juice on Friday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m., and a 21+ one at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on Friday, March 3 with Dogs in Ecstasy, Paper Holland and Rockbirds From Rockford (who are indeed from Rockford).

Friday, Feb 24
Anodyne Coffee Walker's Point Roastery & Cafe

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