2023 (Cherry Red Records)
“8mm” is the sixth and latest album by Fish On Friday, the international studio band formed around singer/keyboardist Frank van Bogaert. Indeed international, with a guitarist living in the US and another band member from England, along with two Belgians. However, the progressive dream-pop/art rock of the group is truly exceptional. On “8mm,” it sounds just as fantastic as on the previous album, “Black Rain” (2020), which is absolutely amazing. It all starts with the artwork by Michal Karcz, not only beautiful but also unmistakably carrying the FOF (Fish On Friday) aesthetic, which is logical since he has been involved with the band since their debut album, “Shoot The Moon” (2010).
The new album had a creation process spanning over 3½ years due to the lockdown. Nevertheless, this period of inactivity led to significant inspiration. “8mm” has become a beautiful contemplative record filled with expressive lyrics about, among other things, the loss of a loved one and emotions that took shape after watching a few 8mm films. Van Bogaert has managed to frame these lyrics with electrifying compositions that have a sultry and brooding feel.
A look at the lineup reveals that it remains unchanged compared to “Black Rain.” With this reassuring consistency, you know you can expect a lot of beauty alongside Mr. Van Bogaert’s atmospheric keyboard work. The music is filled with the outstanding guitar playing of Marty Townsend. At times, you hear him sparkling, at other times, he solos with impressive slide guitar work or showcases his talent on the acoustic guitar. The rhythm section also remains the same, with the tasteful drummer Marcus Weymaere and the presence of Nick Beggs, which is a delight. His creative playing on both bass and Chapman stick adds depth and spaciousness to the music. Beggs has made significant contributions to the band in two ways. Not only has he done a great job as a new co-producer, but his role as a singer alongside Van Bogaert has grown immensely. The rich vocal layering is of unparalleled beauty, with a touch of reverb here and there. Always excellent. Fortunately, his daughter Lula is back also. Her clear voice is a real addition to the music. She only appears in three songs, and it’s smart she appears later on the album so you can look forward to it. She is truly the icing on the cake.
With the title track, which was released as a single, you are immersed in a pool of melancholy. This is not unusual on an FOF album, but this time, you are confronted with a piece of personal sorrow. Watch the video on YouTube and draw your conclusions. Van Bogaert adds some more prominent keyboard work, and then he takes it to infinity. Next is Collateral Damage, and you’ll want to stay in your melancholic mood because the Blackfield vibe here is wonderful, although FOF is definitely not an imitator.
When I first heard the next song, I was left in awe in my wheelchair. This can’t be…? This can’t be Flame by Metro? But it was. A cover of one of my favorite songs. I’ve listened to the FOF version many times now, and all I can say is ‘wow.’ From the swinging overture with its funky guitar, through the complex section with the beautiful acoustic guitar, to the swelling finale, the FOF gentlemen interpret the song perfectly. Especially Van Bogaert’s singing carries the same melancholy as Duncan Browne.
Van Bogaert and his colleagues must be brimming with confidence because by placing this sublime cover so early on the album, they set the bar very high for themselves. However, FOF effortlessly maintains the high level with Jump This Wall, where Theo Travis delivers delightful saxophone and flute passages to the listener, or Funerals, which, after a strong middle section with organ and later acoustic guitar, explodes into a blissful finale. Especially the songs with Lula Beggs, Silently Raging and A New Home, have that magical touch that makes every album special. “8mm” closes with something unique. Life Is Like The Weather is an exceptionally beautiful little piece.
With “8mm”, FOF has delivered a true masterpiece. An album so full of atmosphere is indeed something extraordinary. FOF has the urgency to create such music, and that deserves a deep bow.
© Dick van der Heijde 2023