Fish on Friday are an international band based in Belgium who recently released Godspeed, their third release and the first to feature bass maestro Nick Beggs as a full band member. Considering Beggs’ excellent progressive rock pedigree, playing with Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson, their album is clearly worth a listen and it is no surprise that it is full of excellent playing and songwriting.
The driving forces of Fish on Friday are Frank Van Bogaert, who writes the lyrics, and fellow keyboardist William Beckers, with whom Bogaert writes most of the music. Bogaert runs a studio and this is where he met Beckers, their shared love of progressive rock leading to them forming Fish on Friday in 2009. Bogaert’s experience as a producer and his drive for perfection are reflected in the pristine clarity and dynamic quality of Godspeed. However, production skills do not count for much without quality songwriting and musical skill, which are in abundance here. These attributes are evident on the achingly beautiful She Colours the Rainbow which describes the fantasy world imagined by a person watching his loved one in a coma. Bogarert’s emotional vocals are sensitive and ultimately heartbreaking as he sings “I stare at your long hair, I see it drying in the wind”.
In contrast to this lyrical piece the musicality of this fine band is shown in the following song, the straightforward but captivating Callin’ Planet Home. It features the swooping flutes of Theo Travis and soaring guitars from Marty Townsend, like interweaving musical creatures aloft in a musical sky. This song also underlines that Fish on Friday delight in melodic progressive rock music and are not trying to be ‘edgy’ or particularly challenging in their ideas or composition. They are committed to excellent playing whilst writing accessible, enjoyable layered rock/pop songs with a progressive edge. The opening title track is on a more epic scale with some echoes of Yes in the excellent harmony vocals of Dany Caen and Nina Babet, but the song never strays too far from it’s foundations of a fine driving melodic rock song.
Ghost Song has an elegiac atmosphere and shows a more subtle and complex side, more akin to Steven Wilson. Theo Travis features with a mournful clarinet, befitting a piece about memory and loss. It reaches an uplifting climax as Travis switches to a more celebratory saxophone before Bogaert sings ultimately with optimism Sing for me this Ghost Song – I sing this song for you… Yeah the clouds are moving, And the Sun Breaks through”.
On a less positive note there are some missteps on this album, including the strange juxtaposition of the airy music of Just a Nightmare which is totally at odds with the dark lyrical theme. Whilst Bogaert has explained the value of his dog when secluding himself in a cabin for song writing, it may have not been the best idea to conclude the album with the mawkish coda My Dog. Some dog lovers may disagree!
Opinions about Radio, a retro-styled song about listening to the radio as a child, could also be split. The song starts interestingly with a clip of Pirate station Radio Caroline signing off as the crew and D.J. abandon ship. There appears to be a real sense of fun and nostalgia with references to J.F.K. and one of Bogaert’s favourites, Buggles. However, even such a lightweight song is undermined by lyrics such as “There was no hatred and no greed, All we did was pass the weed, We were blowing smoke so thick, And our girls were feeling sick”.
Thankfully, the rather soggy Radio segues into one of the most effective songs on Godspeed with the powerful but measured drumming of Marcus Weymaere driving along defiant mini-epic Sanctuary which features fine harmony vocals. Townsend excels on guitar and Beggs contributes his usual finely judged bass lines in light and heavy shades. Why was this powerful song not the finale to the album?
The album moves on to a much more low-key level on Stay with the orchestral keyboard waves of Bogaerts and Beckers underpinning an elegy to an alcoholic ‘down and out’. This typifies a curious paradox and subtlety of this band which is not immediately obvious – underneath the lush instrumentation there lie deeper and darker lyrical themes which only reveal themselves with attentive or repeated listenings. For instance, Don’t Love Me to Death couches a rather pointed and bitter lyric about not wanting to be smothered by a partner in a flowing rock / pop song with a jazzy keyboard solo and attractive backing vocals. Similarly, a clock ticking introduces Tick Tock and the lyric sensitively describe the sad experience of witnessing a parent with dementia lose their memories, played against a gentle rock / pop setting. Like the striking cover artwork of Michael Karcz, Fish on Friday present their songs very attractively, but there is more to their art than first appears.
Fish on Friday have been likened to Alan Parsons Project, which may have been so on earlier albums, but on Godspeed they have carved out their own identity. Whilst not perfect, if the listener is looking for perfectly produced, excellently performed and well written rock songs with a progressive edge then Fish on Friday provide a musical dish worth consuming.
01. Godspeed (10:15)
02. Just A Nightmare (5:35)
03. She Colours The Rainbow (3:42)
04. Callin’ Planet Home (5:23)
05. Ghost Song (6:36)
06. Radio (4:42)
07. Sanctuary (8:17)
08. Stay (6:50)
09. Don’t Love Me To Death (4:28)
10. Tick Tock (4:03)
11. My Dog (1:19)
Total Time – 60:21
William Beckers – Keyboards & Percussion
Frank Nan Bogaert – Vocals, Keyboards, Backing Vox & Additional Guitars
Nick Beggs – Bass Guitar, Chapman Stick, & Backing Vox
Marty Townsend – Electric, Acoustic Guitars & Mandolin
Marcus Weymaere – Drums & Percussion
Theo Travis – Flutes (4), Clarinet (5) & Saxophone (5)
Henri Yien – Saxophone (2)
Stef Caers – Backing Vocals (2, 5, 6, 8 & 10)
Dany Caen – Backing Vocals (1, 4, 5, 6 & 10)
Nina Babet – Backing Vocals (1, 4, 7 & 9)
Chantal Kashala – Backing Vocals (7 & 9)
Record Label : Esoteric Recordings (Antenna)
Catalogue Number: EANTCD 1037
Year of Release: 2014
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