Fatherson return with a cohesive album highlighting their skilled and effortless musicianship
Scottish rockers Fatherson have returned with their hotly anticipated sophomore album ‘Open Book’, building on the success of their well-received debut and proving that the second album isn’t so ‘difficult’ after all.
This time however, there’s no ‘softly softly’ approach as there was on their previous record with the quiet opening to ‘An Island’. From the outset, we are thrust into a vast soundscape of huge chorus guitars and soaring vocals with a trilogy of power tunes; ‘Just Past the Point of Breaking’, ‘Always’ and ‘Lost Little Boys’. The monumental energy and urgency of the opening immediately sets out the trio’s intentions for the rest of the album, and while we may have heard these songs before now, they sound all the more effective in the context of the album’s opening.
‘Just Past the Point of Breaking’ possesses all the qualities of a lead single with tight guitar riffs on the verse building up to a cathartic release on a powerful chorus. Sticking to the theme that has previously served them so well, evocative lyrics with emotive melodies, frontman Ross Leighton has described it as being ‘about finding out that something you missed maybe wasn’t as big a deal as you thought it was at the time’.
This moves seamlessly into ‘Always’, heavy with its dark riffs and bassline, effectively setting the tone before Leighton’s wonderful vocals are let loose on the chorus. It’s already a Radio 1 favourite and gaining lots of airplay from Huw Stephens, Clara Amfo and the like. Hugely atmospheric, the song loses none of its live spirit on tape and aches to be played with huge crowds. Similarly, ‘Lost Little Boys’ builds into something euphoric following a softer start, banging into life with pounding drums and soaring vocals. With semi-autobiographical lyrics, the song highlights the anxieties of a band in their twenties trying to make it to the top; ‘we’re just lost little boys, making a name for ourselves’.
It’s a strong start but just as things threaten to get samey, Fatherson show another side to them with a trio of slower songs, beginning with the ballad-esque ‘Wondrous Heart’. It’s an enjoyable poppy number with nods to Coldplay as synths become prominent for the first time. Following this, the tempo drops again with ‘Joanna’, a ballad which deals with the anguish experienced at the end of a relationship. Stripped of guitar-driven chaos, it’s a quiet moment of vulnerability which allows Leighton’s beautiful vocals to shine, quivering with emotion throughout.
‘Younger Days’ follows in a similar fashion; Leighton’s soulful vocals only joined by a piano accompaniment. It has a darker, more atmospheric feel than its predecessor as the frontman has a moment of introspection, examining life and where it leads. It’s a song which shows off the artistry of the band, as Leighton’s emotive lyrics are allowed space to settle with the listener; ‘if you see me dancing, with no applause, then maybe it’s curtains for me’.
From here on, normal service resumes with the type of anthemic Fatherson tracks we’ve come to know and love. Title track ‘Open Book’ is a standout of the album with all the indicators of a future single; a sense of urgency created by a heavy bassline builds into another explosive, catchy chorus. Meanwhile, the lighter nostalgic ‘Kids’ counterbalances the darker themes and gritty guitars of ‘Forest’, a fan favourite since they began performing it live. Finally, ‘Sleeping Over’ allows for a reflective moment, full of beautifully honest and relatable lyrics over a characteristically emotive melody, before the album fades out with ‘Chasing Ghosts’.
By building on the foundations set by their debut ‘I Am An Island’, Fatherson have returned with a cohesive album which highlights their skilled and effortless musicianship. ‘Open Book’ is an honest collection of songs, hugely relatable to those entering adulthood and dealing with self-doubt and the complexities of relationships. They have effectively stretched and expanded on the ideas of their debut album by bringing together meaningful lyrics with exuberant, guitar-driven melodies while allowing Ross Leighton’s wonderful voice to tie the whole thing together. Fatherson don’t seem to be running out of anthems anytime soon and if anything, they look set to be following in the footsteps of their fellow Ayrshire band Biffy Clyro. Who said the second album was difficult?
This Fatherson review was written by Suzanne Oswald, a GIGsoup contributor