As a band, it’s got to be tough to be left waiting in the wings. San Diego’s Fever Sleeves have established themselves as a live mainstay of the local scene over the past few years, working hard to tighten up and push their sound to new heights of tech-pop excellence… for the most part, without the benefit of recorded music to help shore up a larger fanbase. Devotees may recall that they released their first single, “Futuristic Killings”, on 7-inch vinyl back in August of last year, but this year Fever Sleeves have decisively crossed the threshold with the release of their overdue debut record, Soft Pipes, Play On.
A churning stew of melodic indie rock, post-hardcore grit, and math rock complexities, there’s no question that this album was worth the wait. Riffs have been stockpiled, skills have been honed, and loose ends have been cut in Fever Sleeves’ deft streamlining of their sound. These songs are already very familiar to me in a live context, but here they benefit from a masterful sequencing that reveals them as a strong, well-paced, and cohesive statement that at once recalls and stands in contrast to the Sleeves’ typical overpowering burst of energy. From the onslaught of “Vampyroteuthis” to the catchy, moog-heavy “Futuristic Killings”, to the dense behemoth “Grrraldo”, Fever Sleeves pack Soft Pipes, Play On with a lot of balls and backbone, blending the overtly technical with the sublimely melodic. The relative importance of each instrument is particularly notable on this towering debut, as all three members of Fever Sleeves make impressive contributions to the record. The staggering amount of bold and unique guitar riffs is perhaps the most immediately mind-blowing element, but they revolve around an equally bold and intricate rhythm section, dexterously interwoven into monumental walls of bass and breakneck drums.
While a couple of old favorites crop up (“Cusack”, “Mangirlmonkeyhorse”), Soft Pipes, Play On features mainly the newest songs from the Sleeves. You can download a couple of the best down below. “Vampyroteuthis” is an epic opener, reverbed guitar loops bend and twist into a growing wave of percussion and bass before exploding into a crushing din of fractured, steamrolling rock. And though I’ve already posted it a few times, the excellent lead single “Futuristic Killings” bears at least one more mention. Its infectious guitar riffs and vocal melodies soar over droning moog and galloping drums; this track is all about hooks, and when hooks hit like these… well, the song is simply undeniable.
But, so is the rest of this record. The music released in the first half of 2009 has been exceptionally strong, but Soft Pipes, Play On still stands up near the top of my list so far. A few San Diego acts have been pushed into the national spotlight recently — Wavves, Crocodiles, Rafter, The Muslims/The Soft Pack — and I don’t see why Fever Sleeves shouldn’t receive some wider attention as well.
Download: Fever Sleeves – Vampyroteuthis
Download: Fever Sleeves – Futuristic Killings
Buy: You can pick up Soft Pipes, Play On over at CD Baby (as mp3s). They’re currently streaming the whole record on their Myspace page, if you want to hear more.
Watch: Check out the sweet video for “Futuristic Killings” with animation by David McHank and Tony Gidlund of Fever Sleeves.