5-Way Switch

Fat Amy

Rubber Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Having done music reviews in some form now for 11 years, I've discovered there are two main types of albums: those that hook you within the first few notes, and those that you push away after the first few notes. Pretty early on, you can tell if you're going to like an album that you're listening to - though I'd also be the first to admit that these rules are quite flexible.

However, the hardest album to review doesn't fall under either of these categories. No, the most difficult type of album to review is one that is difficult to garner interest in, even after the first few songs. Today's example, East Lansing, Michigan's own Fat Amy and their latest release 5-Way Switch. My interest in the album didn't kick in until around the half-way point - and for some listeners, this might be too late.

Led by the vocal stylings of Bobby Guiney and the two-guitar attack of Kirk Reedy and Mark Meyers, Fat Amy tries to build an energy level on "All The Same" from the sparse drums of Jeff Gensterblum to the eventual sonic onslaught (including, of course, bassist Matt Jackson). The problem is that this song really doesn't have a hook that captures the listner's attention, and comes off sounding a bit bland - not the way you open an album that you hope will break you into the field of national prominence.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In fact, I found it very difficult to get through the first four or five songs on 5-Way Switch - and often found myself restarting the CD player because I had become distracted while listening to it. It's not that songs like "In The Middle," "Come Undone" or "Fortunate" are bad songs, they just lack the kind of punch that I would expect from a young, hungry band.

And maybe this is the problem - the fact that Fat Amy is still a young band. One of the biggest pitfalls I hear in music from a band that hasn't been together a very long time is the songwriting lacks a certain maturity to it - and I don't refer to slipping to "cock-rock" in this instance. The only cure for this is to earn a few scars slugging it out on the road to gain experience.

When Fat Amy does finally throw 5-Way Switch into gear with "Bourbon" and "Break The Ease," they show just how good they could be if they give it a little time. These songs are eruptions of power and two-guitar attack that rival the best of them. And while the energy level dips a bit on songs like "Bleed On," "Early November" and "Odd Man," they're far cries better than the songs used to open up the album. Even the acoustic number "Blue Nubb" was interesting to listen to.

The obligatory "hidden track" about 24 seconds after the completion of "Blue Nubb," sadly, is the best song on the disc - a cover of "Temptation Eyes," whose original artist escapes me right now (I want to say it was the Guess Who - anyone who knows, please enlighten me).This song stays surprisingly close to the bone of the original, and is great fun to listen to. But anytime the cover song is the best, you know that much work needs to be done.

I have no doubt that Fat Amy will continue to grow as musicians and songwriters, and future releases will be sure to set the speakers ablaze - there are moments on 5-Way Switch that serve as evidence of what is to come. Thing is, they're not there yet - and what we're left with is a rather average album.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rubber Records, and is used for informational purposes only.