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Monday, March 03, 2008

Welcome Back Five O'Clock People

If you visit Five O’Clock People’s MySpace, it won’t take you long to realize that though they are some of the smartest musicians on the planet, they don’t take themselves too seriously. This is one of the endearing qualities of the band who takes their name from the biblical story about the field workers who complained about the wage they received after the people who worked half as hard got the same wage.

Funny, if they had the ability to fast-forward 10 years ago when they first got together they would probably laugh at how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy their name has been. Not that they have complained—I guess I am the one complaining. These guys have worked so hard over the past few years touring with big name acts in the early days, playing countless gigs, having label problems, breaking up, getting back together . . . it seems like FOP should be ruling the world by now.

Their band bio reads : : :

“Alex Walker: vocals, piano, guitars, organ, accordion and impossible odds . . . Drew Grow: vocals, guitars, slide guitar, and unblinking squalor . . . Patrick Tetreault: vocals, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, guitars and fading restraint...”

Their “Influences” section reads more like a diary of their headspace rather than the usual namedropping you would find in a section where most bands aim to impress by finding the most obscure indie artists and timeless artisans they can muster up in an effort to impress you and make you think they are cooler than you because you haven’t heard of the crap they listen to. It reads : : :

Frog and Toad. Sunday School. Compunction. Grace. Thankfully not marrying your high school sweetheart. Or the one after that. LSU's This Is The Healing. Juliana Hatfield. Pink Floyd. The Posies. Paul Weller. Peter Gabriel. T-Bone Burnett. The slow songs of Cyndi Lauper (really). The Choir's Circle Slide album was very nice... Lyrically, I guess what influenced this latest album is seeing relationships changing, ebbing, surging, listing, and threatening to either combust or fade. Somewhere in there is an obtuse little presence of hope and denial, which can overlap quite a bit at times....

One of the things that Five O’Clock People have always done is make music because they are musicians. Tell stories because they are human . . . and they are poets. They write good hooks and catchy melodies not because they labor over radio worthy diddys but because they wake up in the morning, put their pants on, and kick booty. Naturally. They are observant and thoughtful and anything but trite.

There has always been an honest quality to their albums but their new release, “Temper Temper” (Spindley Records/Outgo Records) is perhaps : : : more honest. Unpretentious. It plays and sings like a snapshot in time—a story told over the kitchen table with friends. And, times have changed for this band.

Thank God they have taken us on the journey with them. FOP has something to say. And this album feels like they got to a place where they needed to say it or they would curl up and die.

FOP makes their home in the Portland, Oregon area. This album has that Pacific Northwest quality. It feels like a rainy day inside a coffee shop with a good book striking up a conversation with the pierced-up chick eating the bagel while watching the suit read his Wall Street Journal. And, everybody is enjoying themselves and is okay with the other company. It feels like beautiful landscapes and tagged skateparks all at the same time. It feels like your favorite coffee shop/club show that you can’t wait to go to again. It smells like lattes and cigarettes. It feels right. Just like Over the Rhine sounds like Ohio. Just like Sufjan Stevens sounds like Michigan. Just like No Doubt sounds like Anaheim . . . or, used to.

I don’t know if they were going for this or not but, there is an air of hope inherent in this music in the midst of lyrics about hurt, broken relationship, pain, unrequited love and confusion. There is an apparent happy-sadness. As if to say “everything is not okay but it is also not yet what it will certainly be.”

This may very well be the best ten bucks you spend today. Yes, I said today. Buy it now. You will thank me.