Marmoset – Florest Fired

4 out of 5

Produced by: Marmoset

Label: Secretly Canadian

I’ve always had a mixed response to Marmoset.  They seemed like the pretty pop darlings of the Secretly Canadian label, getting lumped into either Belle & Sebastien twee or GBV lo-fi camps depending on how poppy or rocky the group was feeling that day, but then actually experiencing them on album gave me a whole different impression, of a group that sort of floated mystically through riffs and moments that ended up sounding like songs.  This sort of ‘alien’ sensation – like the group approached music as this odd foreign language to be adapted and learned – was underlined when listening to Jorma Whittaker’s first solo album, which also finally broke the seal on my ability to really enjoy Marmoset.  This doesn’t make them less puzzling, but I was able to ditch associations to other bands; Marmoset just sounds kinda like Marmoset.

And after something of a hiatus, Marmoset continued to be Marmoset with the bipolar Florist Fired, kicking things off with a surprising 30 second blast of distortion (‘To Tapper’) before the loud krautrock of the title track putters along for 90 seconds, giving way to another under-a-minute experiment – the punky ‘Das Boot’ – and then into lo-fi dirty joke territory with ‘Eat Me Out.’  In other words, you’re five minutes in and four genres deep, as though the group had forgotten what kind of music they liked to play and so tried on a few different hats.  Polarizing?  A tad.  Opening with riffage is a nice surprise, but the inconsistency that follows makes it hard to get a feel for things.

But then they’ve warmed up.  Both ‘Laughing With Minx’ and ‘I Saw Your Shadow’ are variations on a particular type of drone-like Marmoset tune, where a key phrase or riff gets repeated (as its sole or main focus) over the course of a track; the former track goes whispery with it, the latter sort of weird, pseudo-electro, but both are more formalized and consistent than what preceded.

Soon enough – really only like a third of the way in – the album opens up with ‘Apples.’  The lo-fi indie pop that follows is some of Marmoset’s best work: Memorably shuffly guitar and bass hooks; strong, peppy drums; Whittaker’s dry vocals with his slightly odd, intriguing lyrics.  They venture into the mysterious with ‘(I’m) Somewhere’; rock out with closer ‘Personality Candyspots’, but as ever, it’s all delightfully concise, and almost gorgeous, and almost haunting.  Again, in other words: Marmoset.

The weird hazing of the first few tracks would kill it for most bands, but the wandering seems so honest here that it works in its own way, shaking you up just enough to really revel in being able to settle into the album’s excellent latter portion.