It seems like the stuff that bad movie plots are made of. In 2006 a band go their separate ways and split into two new ventures. For one there’s stratospheric success, hanging out with the likes of Kayne West and being hailed as a musical messiah after only two albums, while the others do well but comparatively fade into the background. Such was the fate of DeYarmond Edison who divided themselves into Megafaun and Bon Iver.
Here’s where the story differs from what you’d expect. Far from being rivals, everything points to Megafaun having a continuing and productive relationship with their former band mate Justin Vernon. There’s no Gallagher brother style rivalry between Megafaun and the ubiquitous Bon Iver. In fact, this album was recorded in the confines of Vernon’s studio. But where their friend seems to be busy crafting hauntingly abstract soundscapes, Megafaun seem content with gathering together a more traditional, deceptively ramshackle collection of songs with not a vocoder in sight.
The band – Joe Westerlund and brothers Phillip and Bradley Cook – seem to be strong exponents of ’60/’70s SOR (Stoner Orientated Rock) and a listen to the album’s immediately enjoyable songs conjures up the Americana of The Eagles and The Byrds. Much like The Bees, Megafaun can pull off a successful tribute to this era while demonstrating their own inventiveness along the way and their ramshackle reputation is worn proudly on their sleeves without losing the melodic heart of their tracks.
The album opens brilliantly with Real Slow – a mission statement from a band wanting to take things at their own pace (presumably a parting shot at the inevitable Bon Iver comparisons). The audio collage of These Words reminds you of the playfulness of The Beta Band and demonstrates that behind the melodies are many layers. The shadow of Bon Iver only looms during Hope You Know, a ballad with cheeky hints of ’80s pomposity that recall Vernon’s Beth/Rest. The last third of the album slows pace and takes on a more wayward, but sublime feel.
The disc does have a few tangential misfires such as the mariachi-style musings of Isodora, and a frivolous hidden track where The Beatles‘ Revolution #9 seems to be transplanted on to the set of O Brother Where Art Thou. There are also a couple of disposable moments that might encourage the odd whistle or toe-tap, but otherwise pass the listener by. Such moments threaten to undermine the album and the duration ultimately ends up feeling flabby. Despite the need for fat to be trimmed, there’s no denying that this disc marks them out as more than the Pete Best to Bon Iver’s Beatles. It might not be entirely mega, but there’s enough to fawn over with this robust collection of breezy and inventive Americana.