Album Review

Fruit Bats "Tripper"

Chad W. Lutz
What do you get when you combine the psychedelia of Pink Floyd, the soul of Grateful Dead, and the pop funkiness of Vampire Weekend? Well, you’re about to find out. With their fifth studio release, Fruit Bats swoops in with a winner that’s worth an audio bite or two.

Released on Sub Pop records, Tripper, an eleven-track psychedelic wonderland, combines elements of a variety of different genres and sub genres and exposes a band that appears to be getting better with age. Right down to the album cover depicting a triangle portal through a white background to a grassy meadow dimension where elk frolic freely under a warm mountain sun, the album is superbly well-done. With catchy hooks, memorable riffs, and an almost tongue-in-cheek approach to rock n’ roll, Tripper is just that: one hell of a trip.

Coming in at just over forty minutes of play, Tripper begins in whimsical fashion. The album features a spacy array of instruments really demonstrating the versatility of the band, most notably encapsulated by the lead singer/songwriter for the band, Eric D. Johnson, who also plays a major role in the popular American indie rock band The Shins. Along with fellow band members Sam Wagster, Ron Lewis, Graeme Gibson, and Christopher Sherman, Johnson and Fruit Bats have been substantial players in the indie rock scene since the release of the band’s first album, Echolocation, in 2001.

Nearly every song transcends the ordinary. Beautiful crescendos and airy, soaring melodies cascading into sharp, memorable, and moving guitar bridges lace the album. Tony the Tripper (4:16), the first trip on the album, lends to an early Sid Barret-era Pink Floyd song the likes of See Emily Play or Bike and continues with other psychedelic tracks like Shivering Fawn (3:51) and So Long (3:54). Tripper squeezes every last drop out of all five members, with a heavy use of keys, guitar, drums, and bass as well as harp and bell-work, including an instrumental piece, The Fen (1:57) that serves as a setup for the sultry and sullen slow, beautiful whimsy of Wild Honey (4:02). Grateful Dead-esque rocker You’re Too Weird (3:46) has a more rhythm/rock-driven sound and really shows a band using a wide range of influences to make good music.

Although they’ve been around since 1997, Fruit Bats still garners a largely underground following. If you haven’t heard of Fruit Bats, the time is now. Tripper’s tracks are fun and extremely listenable to music lovers of all genres. “Each empire who inherits the sea rises and retreats into repose,” declares Wild Honey. “To penetrate pure life, you’ve gotta suffer some.” While Fruit Bats may not be to “Legendary Rock God” status, this album shows they’re definitely worth a listen. To pass this album up, you’d have to be, well, as blind as a bat.