Fair To Midland - Dance of the Manatee
Tim Miller 28/10/2007
As one of the first products of frontman-turned-solo-male Serj Tankian's record label Serjical Strike to forge into the mainstream metal scene, it will be interesting to see how the protégés fair under his direction. Tankian's solo material reflected heavily on his five albums with System of a Down, but Dallas-hailing Fair To Midland abandon their father figure's penchant for near-revolutionary jazz-metal craziness in favour of a single that, in barely 4 minutes, manages to encompass almost every metal cliché going.
An intro that would have sounded fresh on Linkin Park's debut Hybrid Theory slips into a moody and hazy verse, with distant guitars crunching under vocalist Andrew Sudderth's wispy vocals. The pre-chorus, by contrast, is far more pleasing, subtle, well-placed harmonies and climbing piano lines of affecting melody bringing something more to the proceedings. Sudderth's soaring vocals leading the choruses reference the emotional chart fodder of today's American imports, but, underpinned by thundering chords, are at least done convincingly.
It's the guttural bridge of feeble growls of "The bigger they are the harder they fall" and jarring power chords that undoes Fair To Midland's hitherto well-pitched nu-nu-metal. For no clear reason the song briefly parodies Mudvayne and, sandwiched as it is between two halves of a song more black eyeliner than black eye, is ill-suited as the bridge to this single.
Its inclusion, though, gives the impression that Fair To Midland aren't out to emulate the uncompromising inventiveness of their label's spearhead, and seem more comfortable rehashing the staples of top-selling metal bands of this decade. And, while it is done well here, it's been done well well before now.