Dubliners Fight Like Apes are set to release their third, self-titled album later this month – a record filled with contemporary, synth-filled pop songs. Mary-Kate ‘MayKay’ Geraghty’s vocals play over the top of these modern sounds, with the record compromising of big, unabashed belters. Indeed, the band have been blessed in a frontwoman who can swing from a butter-wouldn’t-melt singing style, to a throaty, angry vocal, most obviously seen on ‘Pretty Keen on Centrefolds’. Opening track ‘I Am Not a Merryman’ is the most conventional pop song, with Ting Tings-esque refrains, and more pop hooks than you could shake a stick at.
However, for all the band’s promise to be a driving force in the current pop climate, the record has moments that nonetheless fall flat. ‘The Schillaci Sequence’ feels like a homage to 80’s disco music, yet has a distinctly odd synth sequence that makes the song sound more like something you’d find on a Sims game soundtrack, than a proper song by a proper band. ‘Didya’ sees the band perform a boy/girl call-and-response verse style, yet the male vocals, sung by Jamie ‘Pockets’ Fox, are cringingly awful – you can’t help wishing the band had left the singing job purely to Geraghty. Indeed, some of the more conventional pop songs, such as ‘Numbnuts’ and ‘Pop Itch’, which on other albums would be regarded as a lapse in creativity, are here a welcome relief from the bizarre attempts at originality that make up the rest of this album. The over-reliance on synths becomes tedious, and the listener is left with a distinct feeling that electric guitars would work better, especially on the synth ‘solos’. The lyrics aren’t much better, with song titles such as ‘I Don’t Want to Have to Mate With You’, being as uncomfortable as it sounds.
No one can say Fight Like Apes don’t live up to their name – the songs are as odd as their choice of band name. While originality is often to be praised in song-writing, Feel Like Apes seem to be too self-conscious in their oddness, and come across as a little try-hard. In their endeavours to be avant-garde, the songs have suffered somewhat. While displaying obvious talent, Fight Like Apes need to focus more on melody if they want their songs to be tracks that people return to time after time. Closing track ‘Carousel’ demonstrates that this band are fully capable of turning their hands to melody if they feel so inclined – there are moments of stirring, uplifting choruses, which also display their Celtic roots, but which are then overridden by their beloved synths. If they’d made these melodic sections the focus of the song (and thrown in a few guitars), they would have had a cracking album closer. While this band continue to revel in their art-house pop, the world will move on.