The mystery machine that is FEWS – three quarters Swedish, one quarter American – formed around 2012 after Fred (surnames not forthcoming) left San Francisco to move to Sweden, presumably in search of Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby, but instead finding David, Lulu and Rusty.
Producer Dan Carey (TOY) heard a demo of the band’s track The Zoo and decided he wanted to make a whole album with them. After the band amassed something in the region of 30 tracks, they began whittling them down, eventually settling on the ten that make up debut collection Means.
Whilst pigeon-holing bands can often be misleadingly confined, the worldwide thirst for fast fixes that the download age has brought to music has unfortunately made it necessary to have some idea of what a band sounds like prior to listening. FEWS, then, could perhaps be best imagined as a spiky, icy guitar band that play a quickfire strain of repetitive, spacey psych rock which is no surprise given Carey’s involvement. There are elements of early The Cure, a bit of Scandinavian flair akin to Leaves, a dab of DIIV, a splash of early Foals’ math-rock and a whole lot of repetitive krautrock beats. Oh yes, and they’re inspired by the guitars of Interpol’s Daniel Kessler. And also by Ƶlatan Ibrahimovic, the talismanic Swedish footballer about to depart Paris St. Germain (unless they agree to knock down the Eiffel Tower and replace it with a statue of him instead.)
A couple of tracks have been knocking around for some time. First up was the eight-minute swirling behemoth Ill, included on Means as the album closer, which given its repetitive nature is probably the best place for it. But that’s not due to it being overwhelmingly burdensome – it’s a mind-blowingly awesome wig-out – it’s just at eight minutes 20 seconds, it’s over twice as long as any other cut on the album so is a little like sticking a limousine in a parking lot full of Minis. Approaching like a motorik beat driven locomotive, Ill then psychs out into a fully blown masterpiece that swirls around enthrallingly.
Aside from Ill, there is no shortage of treasures to be found. Another earlier release, the aforementioned The Zoo, is much more concise at three and a half minutes, like a mini version of the Ill limousine in fact. Another (this time less restricted) motorik beat provides the spine while screamed lyrics of “time is on my side” contrast more tempered and refined verses amidst the intricate guitar noodling, repetitive riff and spellbinding spacey blips, swirls and swooshes.
FEWS are clearly a confident lot, too, deciding to open the album with the instrumental I.D. that opens to a bouncing blip before spinning off into Leaves’ territory. More fast math-rocking furnishes the excellent Drinking Games; there’s a lot going on here with various guitar melodies, endearing vocals, and addictive percussion conjuring up images of when Bloc Party were young, vibrant – and, well, good – but it’s organised chaos rather than a confusing mess.
The Queen continues in a similar vein, as does 10 Things, both tracks ensuring the momentum of the album continues nicely, although 100 Goosebumps, another single, does suffer from an uninspiring chorus. Ƶlatan even gets his own track, a breakneck effort utilising Interpol-like guitars, as does the much slower Keep On telling Myself, a self-reflective piece out of character with the rest of the album, guitars shimmering gorgeously.
While there occasionally appears to be room for melodic development for the repetitive riffs that form the basis of much of the band’s work, FEWS have created an excellent debut they can be proud of. Fresh, exhilarating and mesmerizingly addictive, Means is neither a limousine nor a Mini – it’s a triumph from start to finish.