Extremely Biased Album Reviews with Bradley Wik - "Try Again" by the Fraidies

Extremely Biased Album Reviews with Bradley Wik


            Welcome to a brand new segment I’ve just invented, since I’ve the right to do so, seeing as, well, it’s my own fucking blog, called “Extremely Biased Album Reviews.”  The purpose of this is to both share some love and raise awareness for some of my favorite new listens.  It just so happens that two of my favorite records right now are albums released by friends of mine.  Does that affect my objectivity towards them?  Probably, but who gives a shit.  They are wonderful records that deserve as much praise heaped upon them as possible.  So, I’ll start the heaping…

            First up is The Fraidies debut album “Try Again.”  Now, for those of you who don’t already know, this is the band led by none other than Mr. Jon Fickes.  Yes, the one and only.  I don’t know how to put this, but he’s kind of a big deal...  Jon has been teasing us with self-released demos and home recordings put out at various places on the interwebs for a couple of years now.   The songs were infectious and sing-along ready; and we were getting pretty wet in the pants waiting for a finished product.  I remember vividly the first show I ever played with the Fraidies.  I was already so obsessed with the unreleased tunes that I sang along to every fucking song.  No joke.  I hadn’t been such a fanboy since the first, oh, I don’t know, six god-damned times I saw the Hold Steady.  So, needless to say, when I heard Jon had booked time in the studio and was FINALLY fucking doing this thing, I was so pumped.  I had unrealistic expectations for the record.  In my head, it was already multi-platinum-co-headlining-with-Katy-Perry-to-sold-out-arenas big.  I mean, Taylor Swift would suck Jon’s dick to do a twenty-minute opening slot on the “Try Again” album release tour.  Which, Jon would consider. And, the next time a hurricane hit mainland America and there was a huge, star-studded benefit for the victims, Jon would do an acoustic version of “Life Under Water” before Kanye West came out and brought the house down with a spirited live version of “Drunk and Hot Girls”(to take us all back to the better times of, uh, 2007) with Jon Fickes staying on-stage to fill in for Mos Def, I mean, Yasiin Bey, who wasn’t allowed back into the country for the benefit show.  Wait, wasn’t there just a reunion of Black Star for Dave Chappelle’s residency at Radio City Music Hall?  Is there anything Dave can’t do?  Fuck, I mean, how did he get Mos, I mean Yasiin, back into the country?  I thought he was blacklisted, no pun intended…  Whatever, I’m losing my train of thought…  Oh, yeah, that’s right.  So, I had very high expectations for “Try Again.”  Yet, somehow, Jon and the boys surpassed them all…

              To put it simply, and succinctly, The Fraidies have made the perfect sleeper album of the summer.  This is the “Oh, Inverted World” for 2014.  It’s the kind of album you remember and associate with a time and place; like “Gold” or “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” WAS the turn the of the century.  Or “Transatlanticism” or “Ghosts of the Great Highway” or “Funeral” WAS 2004.  Like “Boys and Girls in America” WAS 2006, “Try Again” is the milepost for your life in 2014.  It’s the places you lived and the people you knew.  It’s who you were, and always will be, when this record comes on.  It’s a remembrance of youth or an acknowledgement of age.  It’s beautiful and it’s sad and it’s fun, and it will become a part of your life’s story.  Entire chapters of people’s lives will be scored by this album.  I know mine already is.  But most of all, “Try Again” is a wonderful pop record that is destined to garner the praise, and fans, that it deserves.  There aren’t enough good, honest radio stations to give “Never Love Again (It’s Doubtful)” the spins it’s rightfully due as one of the best, most innovative pop songs of the past, fuck, who knows, ten years.  I haven’t been so helplessly taken by a pop song since the first time I heard “Sussudio.”  “Never Love Again (It’s Doubtful)” has elements of Rock N’ Roll, Whammy-ridden guitar fills, synthy, dance-inspired breakdowns and is summed up brilliantly by a pure pop chorus.  In short, it’s fucking awesome.  It’s definitely the highlight of the record, but is by no means the only one.  “The Clang of the City” is going to be a showstopper during live performances.  “You’ve Got Nothing but You’ve Got Love” is the album cut that is destined to be one of everybody’s favorite Fraidies tunes.  It’s such a sweet, sad, honest song about a failing relationship that it’ll melt your heart every time, even as you can’t help but sing along and hope for love to win out, knowing full well that it won’t.  Every musician/artist/dreamer can feel the full weight of every word when Jon sings “There’s nothing left inside of me.  I’ve got nothing to give you. Why do you insist on loving me?  I can only destroy you.”  It’s heart-wrenching to hear the sadness and resignation in those lines.  Over the course of the record, Jon frequently lays it all out very simply for us; neither trying to hide his sentiments nor be too grand with his lyrical brushstrokes.  This is never more poignantly exemplified than with the song “Gold Miner.”  There are many experiences in life that are too beautiful and too personal to ever try to put into words.  Things that our human language isn’t complex or complete enough to sum up for another’s comprehension.  Such is the case with “Gold Miner.”  I could waste ten thousand words trying to explain what it means to me.  Why each verse is perfect, nothing wasted, nothing wanted.  But I would fail.  There are some moments in life that can only be appreciated.  There is nothing I could say that would express the emotion I felt upon hearing this song for the first time, other than, most people do the best they can and hope there is some sort of validation at some point.  I got mine…


            For sure, none of this would land as hard if the band didn’t hold up it’s end musically.  Andrew Angell does his part on the drums, guiding the band through the many complex rhythms and changes throughout the tunes.  Jack Shriner(bass) is tasteful and driving while David Solomon(keys) helps build the sonic backdrops and flourishes when necessary.  Jon Fickes, the guitar wizard he is, handles both the rhythm and the lead guitars, which dance in and out of melodies and counter melodies with the vocals.  Jon constantly challenges the boys with his tunes and they handle them beautifully.  The recordings themselves leave room for the performances to breathe and they shine through.   Of course, Jon’s songs always stay at the forefront, and rightfully so.  He is a master of melody and his songwriting talent is prevalent on every tune on “Try Again.”  The Fraidies are already a staple of my summer party playlist, and hopefully, this isn’t the last we hear of Mr. Fickes and company.