The first full-length for Fountain Square's Vacation Club has been a long time coming, but they'll finally premiere Heaven Is Too High, recorded at Magnetic South Studios in Bloomington, at a show this Friday at the White Rabbit. The album is important not only because it's the band's first full-length vinyl release (one that will have national distribution after the May 27 street date via Bloomington-based Secretly Canadian) but also because it spans two eras of the band's history.
Shortly after the release of their self-titled 2012 EP, original bassist Brandon Jackson left the band, to be replaced by Joey Shepard for a while (and on some tracks on Heaven), but ultimately by journeyman guitarist Mitchell Duncan. On Heaven, they've re-recorded three songs from the EP and laid down eight of their road-tested classics.
The Fountain Square psych-rock fever that peaked in the summer of 2012 left its mark on the band, but they've stayed true to their roots: taking pop song structure and making it psychotic. Lead singer Sam Thompson's eerie, bubblegum voice butts against against searing, distorted guitar work throughout. Playful romps like "Bus Driver" and "Oh, Patty" harken back to that pre-2012 era, while on other tracks like "Hound" (which pushes the album a degree or two darker) and "Boiled," (a spooky, disjointed, amorphous thing) they open up into scarier — and more intriguing — territory.
Noteworthy is the cut "Landon is a Rider," a testament to the shared inspiration and incestuous musical relationships between Fountain Square bands. The lyrics are a letter to Landon Caldwell – of Learner Dancer, now Burnt Ones who moved to San Francisco last year – but the song itself has a long genealogy. Mitchell Duncan first wrote it for his side project, Psychic Feel, well before he joined Vacation Club. Then Vacation Club grabbed onto it for a while before Learner Dancer (Duncan's then-band) took it and recorded it as "Dark Glow" on their 2012 self-titled album. Now, Vacation Club has taken it back once again.
But most interesting is the album's epic final track, "Rats as Rats," the moment where the band breaks through into something completely new. The song opens with a ripping, pulsating guitar chord. Enter Jered Sheline's rollicking drums and Thompson's angsty whine, and the tension builds. And it's there, in the bridge, just as the jamming, slicing guitars give way to a thick bass note and a masterfully manipulated guitar riff by Jeb Lambert, that the sublime moment comes. It's as if the band's entire, unified energy is poured into one note.
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