By at 10:19 AM Wednesday, July 21st 2010

 

Fitz & Company Raises A Ruckus

Fitz & The Tantrums, Reviews

 

More than anything else we do here, we enjoy shining our spotlight on the underrated and unknown bands otherwise lost in a sea of overhyped future has-beens. As rewarding as it is, it’s not a hard job; Even when we miss or ignore promising blips on our radar, you guys pick up the slack.

Case in point: A couple of you recently hipped us to a new track by Fitz & The Tantrums, a band that has been right under our noses for over a year now. After hearing Money Grabber, I made a call and got my hands on an advance of their debut LP, Pickin’ Up The Pieces. And I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since.

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The six-piece band features a keyboardist, a sax/flute player, a bassist, a drummer, and two vocalists: Noelle Scaggs, a gospel / R&B singer who has worked with Dilated Peoples (and The Black Eyed Peas, which we won’t hold against her) backs up the man known only as Fitz, who sounds like Neil Diamond but looks like the barista who made your coffee this morning. That’s right, an undercover soul man.

Even if Fitz & company were to fall through a wormhole while performing and land in 1967, they wouldn’t be greeted as great innovators. Their sound is traditional genre to the point of being unabashedly cliché more often than not. Yet you can’t dispute the album’s consistency, on any plane of space-time.

There are no duds to be found out of ten on Pickin’ Up The Pieces. The tracks that stretch the clichés the thinnest justify doing so by being the catchiest damn sweets on the album. L.O.V.’s chorus, on paper, is a painfully bad pickup line: “L.O.V. for you and me / That’s just the way it’s gotta be (repeat…)” Yet that stupid line playing through my head kept bringing me back not only to the album, but to the song itself, with its anthemic chorus and clap-along breakdown designed for the end credits following a happy ending.

Though despite that occasional bright, sunny technicolor chorus, like the one found on opening track Breakin’ The Chains Of Love, Pickin’ Up The Pieces is most certainly a breakup album, and is borne of bitterness and loss first, and a crippled hope second.

Songs like Money Grabber are direct of course: “Don’t come back / anytime / You’ve already run me dry / This is your payback / money grabber…” And Don’t Gotta Work It Out is downright devilishly vicious: “We don’t / gotta work it out / ‘Cause no one’s / gonna tell you where to find me / when you / come lookin’ for me / ‘Cause I’ll be walking out the door before you know it and you better believe…”

There’s just one factor that takes away from the relevance and impact of such emotionally inspired expression of thoughts and feelings we’ve all savored or suffered through; Their delivery comes through sounds and even lyrical phrases that are ages-old, that we’ve been hearing and singing along to for years before Fitz came along.

Furthermore, I’ve been told that the album doesn’t quite do justice to Fitz & The Tantrums’ energetic live show, through which these songs have been evolving beyond the snapshots committed to tape. This is a complaint I’ve had and voiced for several albums by great bands who built audiences through live shows before releasing a debut that was recorded and being readied for release all along.

However, to discredit a collection of recordings based on future versions by a more mature incarnation of the band would be to disrespect the album format that we revere. Pickin’ Up The Pieces passes muster with a high standard for song craftsmanship, and a timeless sincerity despite the considerably well-worn bag of tricks.

To answer the question inherently presented by anything retro, this band’s debut represents a true revival, rather than an exhumation; Without heart, you’re just a zombie, and Fitz & The Tantrums are not lacking anything in that category. In fact, many of the compositions on Pickin’ Up The Pieces are so perfect and full of conviction that it’s hard not to call them classics without exaggeration. To say that the swaggering, funky street corner sermon Rich Girls one-ups the likes of Mark Ronson and Wino and Duffy is not saying enough, and to say that the flawless, heartstring-plucking album-closer Tighter gives Elton John a run for his money might not even be saying too much.

To learn more about Fitz & The Tantrums, and to download that free track that finally caught our attention, head over to fitzandthetantrums.com.

 
 

Fitz & The Tantrums

Pickin’ Up The Pieces

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Released: 24/08/2010
Label: Dangerbird
1. Breakin' The Chains Of Love
2. Dear Mr. President
3. Pickin' Up The Pieces
4. Money Grabber
5. L.O.V.
6. News 4 U
7. Don't Gotta Work It Out
8. Rich Girls
9. Winds Of Change
10. Tighter
 

Meanwhile, On The Internet...

 
8 comments
  1. Trina Green says:

    Fitz & Co. are a live band for sure, as I’ve heard every song in their arsenal several times over and unless they put out a live album instead of a studio one, the studio renditions will always fall a bit short. But since we can’t tote the band around with us for command performances when stuck in traffic or on the Metro, the CD will have to do.

    Glad that you finally got your retro-soul on and some that you actually approve of. You’ve missed way too many Fitz shows.

  2. Mork says:

    Nice. Makes me even more excited to see Orgone at the Independent. These guys will be opening up for them and I was wondering who the hell they were. Looks like it will be $13 bucks well spent.

  3. I really like the sample song here. This really sounds like it would sound great live, will definitely keep my eyes (and ears) open for more.

  4. Trina Green says:

    Huh. I just noticed that I’m no longer ‘dharma69′ around here when signed is via Facebook. Not sure how I feel about this.

  5. Ange says:

    I saw some guys recording FATT at their Natural History Museum show & heard they were gonna release a little live album from it, but I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. You guys are saying the studio album doesn’t capture the energy of their live show – so true. & that particular show was AMAZING so I bet the recording is awesome. Someone’s gotta rally for this thing to be made available!!

    & Happy Birthday Fitz!

  6. Rory says:

    Sounds like it could be a fun live show…but doesn’t really explore any new musical heights…at least this song.

  7. Kevin Lee says:

    Diggin it. Nothing crazy inventive. Just fun and I can dig fun.

  8. alex says:

    F.A.T.T. seriously rocks a live show! Got hooked at the Natural History Museum and have seen them three more times since. In between shows, singing along loudly in the car will just have to do.
    This band is going to blow up… soon!

  9. [...] out our review of Pickin’ Up The Pieces here, by the way. [...]

  10. [...] been digging Fitz and the Tantrums since they caught us by surprise with their outstanding debut LP Pickin’ Up The Pieces. Since then, the neo soul darlings have regaled us from coast to coast, working their magic from [...]

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