Fly Between Falls – Animal Liberation Orchestra
Animal Liberation Orchestra’s sound feels wonderful. It’s perfect ear fodder for a morning off and a full pipe, if you imbibe as such. Fly Between Falls will send you dancing to the shower, refrigerator, whatever it is you hit first on a slothy Saturday morning.
But, the ability to make fun music doesn’t necessarily mean the band is great. It just means they’re fun. Ear-pleasing, foot-stomping melodies are something any pop band worth its pay thrives on. ALO singer/keyboardist Zach Gill said in an interview, "If you can make people dance, that’s half the trick." He’s right on with that. Making people dance is very important ("half the trick"), otherwise bands end up playing for bars where patrons sip and chat at their tables rather than attempt eye contact with the musicians, and attempted eye contact is all important for touring bands.
There are some singer/songwriters who’d love it if everyone would just sit and listen to their lyrics (also part of the trick) and acoustic guitar/piano/whatever, rather than causing a danced-up commotion. I prefer bands that can make me dance and make me listen to their words/stories because they’ve grabbed my interest beyond rhythm and melody and tickled me through thoughtful and active lyrical imagery.
ALO can make you dance and keep you interested, throughout. But, every now and then, a loose lyric might make you stutter step. Zach Gill, bassist/vocalist Steve Adams, guitarist/percussionist/vocalist Dan Lebowitz and drummer/vocalist David Brogan pull out Phish-esque musical phrases, good-time funk along the lines of some of Shuggie Otis’s work and even Keller Williams’ sound textures ("The Gardener"). I realize some of the lyrics I shudder over are probably just in jest, but when everything’s going so well on an album, a line like, "When I touch you, my heart begins to flutter, because you’re smooth and creamy, like peanut butter," ("Girl I Wanna Lay You Down," featuring Jack Johnson on vocals) just reeks and makes the listener think too hard. Did they just mean to say that?
We hear lyrical ability in songs like "Spectrum" (pondering self identity), through the herky jerky grooves of "Shapeshifter" (celebrating malleable personalities), the slow trotting "Fly" (hoping a light will come at the end of the tunnel) and — my personal favorite — "Wasting Time" (why not waste a little?)
"Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)" rolls over a cool lap steel whine and a thick-toking funk bass groove. Okay, so a song about smoking bud and simple chilling is one of my favorites. Well, there are so many awful and stereotypical songs written on the topics that I’m happy to finally hear some stoned thought, rather than ranting. The chorus phrase says it all: "I never learned, but I don’t mind. I’m just wasting time."
Good times don’t seem so wasted to me. Late in the song, Lebowitz starts to pick heavier and everyone else swings into a Cajun-inspired gospel-like side street. If you decide to draw on the requisite bowl once you realize what ALO’s speaking about, you’ll probably be done by now, unless there are a lot of you in the room, and ready to dance again. How’d ALO know?
ALO’s music demands your ear (as do a glut of the lyrics) and makes this disc worth a first-spin slot on any Saturday morning. You’ll dance on through Monday, and that’s the real trick.