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I bought the debut album by East Bay funk-pop quartet Fever Charm with a great amount of uncertainty. Most people I know who have seen them live either say that they are a great live act and a poor studio band, or a great studio band and a poor live act. Yet Fever Charm only had two studio recordings to their name before the release of their eponymous, six-song debut. Upon listening to this album, I found myself amped-up, grooving along, and often completely confused.
The album kicks off with “You Won’t See Me Tonight,” a hilariously sarcastic dance-rocker with a groove that brings to mind Death From Above 1979. Ari Berl’s voice is dominant over all else, dryly intoning the tale of his love’s less-than-romantic goodbye. “One of a Kind,” a live juggernaut that has caused more audience balloon fights than perhaps any other song in history, is a great showcase for the band’s technical chops, especially those of ridiculously funky bassist Yianni AP (brother of Dizzy Balloon vocalist Petros AP). “Sunrise,” a lonely club ballad, takes a short break from the sardonic edge of the other songs. It is also one of the hardest songs to listen to--it has some great harmonies, but Berl’s vocals are sharp and irritating, and the mix of live drums and drum machines sounds rather uncomfortable.
Then come the two pre-released singles--the utopian stomper “Anything New?” and the energetic barnstormer “Shakedown”--before a very odd finale, “Sunday Afternoon.” “Sunday Afternoon” is a strange sort of anthem. It begins as a gentle acoustic ballad about something (it’s never clear what) that will soon end. Then Berl exclaims, “Today is not that day!”, and the song explodes into a full rocker. It’s a dramatic moment, but it’s executed poorly. While live performances of this song have been known to go on for quite a while, the studio recording simply ends too soon. Just when the listener gets really into the hard-rock groove, it stops in what the listener hopes is a false ending.
Ultimately, this is a fun album from a fun band, despite being a bit erratic in terms of its mood at times. But if you really want to party with Fever Charm, see them live at one of their notoriously loud but notoriously awesome club gigs. They are genuine showmen, and like every good Rebirth band, Fever Charm engages with the audience as much as possible. Like with many of their fellow Bay Area bands (Cypher Syndicate, Lou Lou & the Guitarfish, even the Grateful Dead), you have to see them live to truly understand what they’re all about.