The band’s main strength is to be found in the songwriting. The production is another story. There’s nothing basic about this album, and Mies van der Rohe’s famous proclamation “Less is more” did not figure into this particular equation. There are strings galore, multilayered vocal harmonies throughout, horns, oboes, and accordions here and there, and even the appearance of a calliope on one track.
I’ve never been much of a Queen fan. There were a few songs that I like, but I always thought they sounded, well, goofy. fun., on the other hand, are obviously big Queen fans, and while modern recording technology (and basic good taste) has allowed them to improve on Queen’s cheesier sounds, it still sounds, to some extent, like Queen to me. It sounds cute. I don’t like cute. I don’t know, maybe I need to lighten up. The sounds of ELO and Jellyfish are among the blended ingredients too, but on “Walking the Dog,” fun. relies on the more current influence of Vampire Weekend. Then again, Vampire Weekend got it from Paul Simon, and he got it from musicians in South Africa, and they got it …
“At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)” is as representative a track as any. If you don’t get what I’m going on about when you listen to it, you’ll probably like the album more than I do. You’ll use the word “catchy” instead of “cute,” and you’ll suggest that I look into getting a sense of humor. You won’t be the first.
As I said at the outset, this is an interesting listen. You certainly can’t say that fun. is slavishly following trends, as so many bands are these days. Many of the songs are really good. I’d like to hear them in a more stripped-down form. I have a similar problem with Dr. Dog, a band that was recommended to me by a number of people. I think much of their recorded work is too fussed over, but when I saw them live and their sound was more stripped down out of necessity, emphasizing their powerful songwriting, I thought they were wonderful. Perhaps the same fate awaits me with fun.