Yeasayer’s third album is here and, true to form, there are impassioned, earnest vocals yolked with some surreal and unsettling musical touches. Whereas on All Hour Cymbals this worked almost without fail, Fragrant World seems to be lacking at times thanks to that very same technique. Some parts are sublime (the demented brass on ‘Fingers Never Bleed) and some are just terrible (‘No Bones’…all of it).
The album starts strongly if a little inward looking, insofar as the band are clearly aware of their idiosyncrasies and at times it sounds as if they are looking to build on them alone. This is all well and good when somebody is playing to their strengths, but when playing to your indulgences the result is a different story and the end product this time is entirely hit and miss. ‘Fingers Never Bleed’, is par-for-the-course Yeasayer but in the best possible way – the little brass hook an excellent touch, making the song as charming as anything they’ve produced before.
Unfortunately Yeasayer get a bit carried away with themselves and stretch this method to the point of waste. ‘Longevity’ and ‘Henrietta’ are fantastic examples of quirky development, the latter with a breakdown and refrain that screams out to be played at festivals, but ‘Blue Paper’, ‘The Devil and the Deed’ and ‘No Bones’ just don’t have the same appeal and acutely hamstring the album before it even reaches the midpoint. The faux-filmi ‘No Bones’ deserves special mention as a nominee for Dud of the Year.
The rest of the record fares similarly to the first half with some decent elements to sweeten the mix but all to often something unnecessary will let it down. ‘Reagan’s Skeleton’ could have been much better but the band overdid it on the embellishments, like trying to spruce up an old couch with a glue-pen and crepe paper. ‘Demon Road’ and ‘Damaged Goods’ are decent but really only noteworthy for sounding most like they could have been left over from Odd Blood or All Hour Cymbals while ‘Glass of the Microscope doesn’t even have that. How long the band can drink from the same well is anybody’s guess, but if Odd Blood made up the minds of the undecided and sent them packing, rehashing the same ideas isn’t likely to win them back. ‘Folk Hero Shtcik’ says it best with the line “The emperor is standing there naked, how long can he fake it?”