Light, sleepy chamber pop

If you read the reviews of Fear of Men’s debut release “Loom,” along with interviews with vocalist Jessica Weiss, you’ll see references to intellectual heavyweights Freud, Sartre and Walter Benjamin, and you’ll come across discussions of Sylvia Plath and phrases like “existential pop.” That’s a lot of weight for a couple of artists who just finished polishing off their first chamber pop record.

Besides acting as bait for critics, the associations don’t do the band any favors. Anybody looking for literary heft in the lyrics “You make no sense at all/ With my hands around your neck/ You make no sense at all/ With my hands around your…” and “Baby come home now/ Baby come before the light is gone/ You don’t disgust me anymore/ You don’t disgust me” is going to be sorely disappointed.

What are here, however, are somewhat melancholic musings countered by shimmering guitars and bright melodies, a combination that has critics justifiably going on about Morrissey. Weiss, unfortunately, encourages the connection by saying she loves The Smiths.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview FoM did with

“Todd: One of the things I admire most about the band is their willingness to reference great works of literature in a way that I haven’t seen since Morrissey did, many years ago. To what extent is the lyrical content of your songs important to the overall message of the band?

Jess: Thank you! I’m a big Smiths fan, so that’s nice to hear! To me, the lyrics are very important. I don’t really write music without lyrics and I fine tune them after they’re written, but I wouldn’t really write a song unless I had something I wanted to say. The lyrics basically are the message of the band.”

There we have it. More than anything, the group, with its layered-but-flat vocals and sunny atmosphere put me in mind of fellow Brits Stereolab, another band that sounds refreshing for one song, but soon becomes kind of sleepy.

My favorite experience that I had in relation to FoM has almost nothing to do with the music. In the group’s video for lead single “Luna,” there’s a scene in which the gorgeous Weiss (who’s got a Zooey Deschanel thing going on) sits with a St. Vincent-esque blank stare and a snake writhing around her neck.

It’s haunting and dangerous and more exciting than anything going on in the music (very reminiscent of the moment I had earlier this week watching The Afghan Whigs’ “Algiers” video – dramatic content, sleepy song). But even the video is too artsy and considered – everything’s all Gap ad-white with occasional splashes of color.

“Vitrine” is the best song of the bunch. Its climbing keyboard opening slows things down, breaking up the monotony of the ringing guitars, and the quietness gives the listener the chance to actually enjoy the lyrics people are talking so much about, even if they’re just “I have daydreams/ That show me what I lost/ This is the answer to your prayer/ You’re never there.”

There are going to be a lot of people that like this music and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are enough twists and turns in the lyrics, ghostly vocals and heartbeat rhythms to keep any Smiths fan entertained for the duration. But I need more.

2 stars out of 5.