The Velvet Underground have a hell of a lot to answer for. (Besides Lou Reed'sdumb new Edgar Allan Poe tribute, that is.) At every stage of their career theycreated a new style that would be mishandled by their imitators. But the gutter-wiseglamour of their debut and the grating noise-for-noise's-sake of WhiteLight White Heat have had nowhere near as insidious an impact as the hushedminimalism of their third album. The Velvets are responsible for every indieband that hops back and forth from chord to chord without ever nailing a chorusor raising their voice.
But though the Fruit Bats have some simple melodies, Eric Johnson and GillianLissderstands that there's more than one way a song can move.It can go forward, revved by propulsion or it can go upward, building soundon top of sound. "Rainbow Sign" is a typical track. It starts outwith a basic acoustic guitar strum, and generally accumulates other noises-alight bed of piano, a harmony vocal, a lead acoustic lick, a set of maracas,a muffled backbeat thump, a xylophone, some squeaky electronics. Elsewhere,Beatle-ish whoa-whoas and distant brass bursts elbow their way into the mix,and "A Bit of Wind" warps the "My Girl" riff for its owngentle purposes.
The lyrics are desultory, consisting sometimes of just repeated phrases. Butthey're mellifluous phrases-"slippin' on through the sensors"is sonorous. Johnson sometimes sounds a bit like Rufus Wainwright, though bothless cynical and less romantic. The Fruit Bats aren't exactly ambitious,but they aren't complacent either. Here is a band that sounds perfectlycomfortable within its own skin.