Death and Texas
One of the advantages the album format will always have over the shuffle button is sequencing. Each song is appearing in a specific order because that’s the way that artist wants you to experience it. Based on what begins an album, and what ends it, listeners get insight into how musicians value their material. So even though it covers a lot of territory on its polished, vibrant debut LP — from snappy power-pop to sloppy punk — Portland quartet FonFon Ru has shown us where it feels most confident. Death and Texas is bookended by two slow-building, reverberating rock epics that provide a satisfying framing to the proceedings and also a potential way forward for the young group. The opening song, “Dust In My Eye,” takes a chugging soft-loud-soft riff and makes it sound absolutely cavernous — singer Harry James evokes memories of Perry Farrell belting about summertime over walls of distortion. And the closer is a doozy, nearly eight minutes of artfully constructed guitar squeals that acrobatically toe the line between shoegaze balladry and a classic-rock solo showcase. It’s interesting that these guys named themselves after a common-law marriage concept from the show Futurama, because FonFon Ru has not yet committed to a sound. They don’t have to, because they’re pretty good at every genre they’ve tried out here. But a whole album of extended guitar anthems that develop gradually, eventually swallowing us whole? I think that could be their Smizmar.