Danielson Famile - Fetch the Compass Kids (Music CD)

Release Date: 25 November 2013
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Never quite at home on the overtly Christian record label Tooth & Nail, the Danielson Famile moved over to the Indiana-based indie label Secretly Canadian for their fifth release, Fetch the Compass Kids. Tooth & Nail, with its roster of mostly punk and emo bands, never seemed to know what to do with Danielson's quirky, largely unclassifiable pop, and the band suffered from poor support as a result -- despite winning accolades from such high-profile publications as Spin and the Village Voice. But most of the attention showered on the Danielson Famile up to this release focused on the band's eccentricities -- the odd rhythm shifts, the girl group harmonies, the otherworldly lyrics, and, above all, Daniel Smith's voice, which at times sounds like a pre-pubescent Frank Black -- overlooking the quality of Smith's songcraft. With Fetch the Compass Kids, the Famile also broke away from longtime producer/collaborator Kramer (who worked on their previous three outings) and enlisted the ubiquitous Steve Albini to work behind the boards. And the result is an album far more accessible than anything put out previously by the band. The unpredictability and general weirdness is still fully intact -- with banjos, falsetto harmonies, toy piano, and marching singsong-y tempos strewn about -- but it doesn't overshadow the songs themselves. Lyrically, Fetch the Compass Kids is a loose concept album about finding tranquility in a fast-paced world, and the Christian concept of forgiveness, as on previous Danielson albums, plays a prominent role here. But whereas Smith came off as a mystical seer of visions on previous efforts, here that element is toned down, and much of the album is spent free of allegory and symbol in favor of the direct and literal (although there are plenty of times when this is not true, particularly on songs like "Fathom the Nine Fruits Pie" and "Good News for the Puss Pickers.") This approach comes as a refreshing change after the challenging Tri-Danielson albums, and although it's far from easily accessible, Fetch the Compass Kids provides a good introduction to the music of Danielson Famile. But, as a word of warning, all preconceived notions of what "Christian bands" sound like should be checked at the door. ~ Jason Nickey
Release Date: 25 November 2013