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Fun. | Some Nights

album review by John Powell

PFun. | Some Nights

Coming at you like lightning, Fun.’s second album, Some Nights, is far and away one of the most original and gorgeous albums of the year. From the sparse but theatrical intro, to the pining, soothed, and self-deprecating finale, Fun. mesmerizes, in part by the band as a whole, but lead singer Nate Ruess could likely be saving pop music.

Beyond vocals, Nate writes humbled, affected lyrics so rich with imagery and story, and he develops surreal melodies to sing them. With the Shins’ level of syntax and rhythm, he digs deep into family, friendship, and life in the Big Apple. He’s come far as a professional songwriter, and with Fun. he’s developed a dramatic sense of song only comparable to Queen, explosive, meandering, striking songs boasting big beats, searing guitar, and just enough electronics to keep things in the pop realm.

While their hit, “We Are Young” is wonderfully arranged and shows off Fun.’s capabilities, it fails to recognize the truly grandiose moments blended seamlessly with the most introverted lyrics.

“Some Nights Intro” has danse macabre piano by Andrew Dost, and Nate begging, “Have you listened to me lately?/ I’ve been going fucking crazy!” From this moment on, Nate is blunt about how popularity has brought on failed relationships and strained ones, and for someone like Nate, interpersonal, it’s taxing.

It’s not all bitter, however. He begs, “You swore and said/ “We are not shining stars”/ I know that,” but then sings, “I like to think/I can cheat it all/to make up for the times I’ve been cheated on.” Guitarist Jack Antonoff provides slick acoustic work here, until the end when he shreds on electric. Fun.’s instrumentation is built on layers, and the whole band builds off one another. There’s never really a guitar riff, but Jack has technical savvy that creates treasurable layers.

On “It Gets Better” they go punk rock, palm muted guitar and synth drums back up Nate, who takes an affected voice and dares, “It’s hard to lay a golden egg/with everyone around,” and it’s a metaphor for how high we’ve set the bar for him. Likewise, the anthemic “It’s Alright” has a chorus of people singing together with Nate, and Nate crooning over thick bass drumming, “I got nothing left inside of my chest/ but it’s all alright.”

“Why Am I the One” is a highlight, though, very 90s in structure, Nate pulling out all the stops. The music is pop rock at its finest. “My nights become as vapid/ as night out in Los Angeles,” he worries before everything but piano drops out and then feeds back in for the chorus. “For once I get the feeling I’m right where I belong.”

The best song, hands down, is “Some Nights”, starting off with an a’capella singalong. The melody is infectious, deathly infiltrating. “What do I stand for?” Nate questions before the drums, like a pop-oriented drumline, pummels in. He bounces from his inner mindscape to finding “a martyr in his bed,” and then begging, “I wish this would all end/ because I could use some friends for change,” and finally, “My heart’s breaking for my sister/ man, you wouldn’t believe/the most amazing things/that can come from such terrible lies.” Wow.

The album as a whole leaps around the life and times of these Times, and from one young man dealing with fame and still wanting to be normal. The band supports this with a blend of rock, pop, soul, and something weird in between.

Sometimes they use Autotune, however. I don’t get that. Nate has arguably one of the best voices on the radio today. He doesn’t need anything drawing away from this talent, which he has in spades. His melody making, lyrics, and voice are all supreme. Of course, it’s these sorts of compliments Nate sings about being uncomfortable with, but the result is one hell of an album, and his insecurities help Fun. thrive.

If they get too big, Fun. might lose the muse of poverty, of growing up and holding on. Hopefully, Some Nights is just the beginning of a stretch of similarly beautiful albums. They are much more than their hit. and they deserve to be preserved as storytellers of the twentysomethings in the new millennium.

Bottom line: Pop, rock, soul- wound up in a band’s know-how and love of the hook.


 

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