Who says you can’t bring the noise and deliver hooks too? On their debut album, Fancy Legs have it both ways, packing pressurized guitars and catchy chorus candies for 30 minutes of straightforward, often anthemic rock and roll fit to tear down stadium-scale venues.
“Blacklight Porchlight” opens the record with a declaration from singer/guitarist Corey Jenkins: “My past isn’t past me / So don’t join me now / Too many bones in the closet / I gotta clear them out.” He asks for “a case of forgiveness,” then says, “I threw my last one out,” a clever contradiction that sets up a chorus infectious enough to merit absolution. The song’s narrator has his share of troubles but comes off as an honest and likeable guy.
This is a record about shredding. The guitars are dialed to Powerhouse, distorted enough at times to induce arena-rock textures without muddling the melodies. Chris Burton’s slender synthesizer makes for a delicate contrast, like a thin sheet of cellophane slotted between the layers of axe dirt.
It’s no surprise that during their jam-packed album-release party on April 20 in Kenmore’s Rialto Theater, these guys — dressed in all-black suits, and each rocking a different colored tie — played loud enough to make earplugs a necessity even for the fans cramped in the back corner. Nearly as loud was the smell of certain unofficial-holiday-related herbs burning somewhere outside the venue doors.
The show was a lively jamboree, but occasionally the guitars were cranked so loud that the notes smudged together into bleached-out noise blocks. On the album, Fancy Legs shred away without skidding into dissonance. Solos abound, but they never feel self-indulgent, never meander or drag; instead, they compel you to bang your head.
The band also excels at chorus hooks. On “Slow Saturday,” Jenkins’ croaky voice stipples an otherwise shimmery song with some grit while also managing a melody that’s, well, pretty. “Darling, you don’t have to say, ‘I’m sorry’ / When you’ve done nothing wrong,” he sings, proving that while he may have trouble accepting others’ forgiveness, he’s got plenty to give.
It sounds like all the fellas sing the chorus of album closer “Sundance Parkway.” Their voices careen off each other instead of gelling. They veer out of tune, replacing perfect harmony (which has little value in rock and roll, anyway) with a whole lot of enthusiasm, a fitting ruckus to finish out a party record. Maybe some of that herb smoke wafted in through the studio door too?
The album’s peak is its fourth track, “You Took Me.” The lyrics are crude and a touch stupid, the guitar solo is impeccable, and the chorus is as good as anything Van Halen ever recorded. The song is turbulent arena rock, Fancy Legs’ surest execution of the raw but radio-friendly balance they achieve throughout the record.
As a start-to-finish listening experience, this debut is immensely enjoyable, no supplemental herbs necessary.