Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #69: "Rikki Tikki Tavi" -- Fair to Midland

Texas prog metal band (and former Serj Tankian proteges) Fair to Midland finally released their long-awaited fourth album, Arrows & Anchors, in 2011. After their major label debut in 2007, the band had built up a following through a heavy diet of touring, but while new music was dangled in front of our eyes as early as 2009, things didn't actually materialize for quite some time -- even after early demos of eventual album tracks were posted that year. A tour bus accident, in which some of the band's equipment was destroyed, did not help matters.

When the album was released this year, it contained a darker side to the band, and was heavier-hitting than the previous chapter in the band's career. Gone was some of the melodicism that made Fables From a Mayfly so great, but there were smatterings of the band's past along the way. One such example -- "Rikki Tikki Tavi," a song that finally saw a recorded version after years of being played live.

The song is a veritable see-saw of dynamics. Sometimes, Darroh Sudderth's vocals are singsong, accompanied by pleasant keys from Matt Langley. And then, in an instant, Sudderth transforms into a deep-voiced, screaming monster over metal-esque instrumentation.

That's always been one of the strengths of Fair to Midland -- unpredictability. And this song, at first listen, is as unpredictable as they come. It jumps from tranquil to volatile seamlessly. It's tougher to swallow than some of the band's more toned-down fare, but that's all part of the fun. "Rikki Tikki Tavi" is the kind of thing that must be an experience to see live. It changes directions so often, it's almost impossible to not be caught off guard when Sudderth and the band launches into its dense riffage each time.

Other songs, particularly "Musical Chairs," showed a Fair to Midland that was more close to the band of before, while more still where almost constantly turned up to 11. "Rikki Tikki Tavi" was the amalgamation between the two sides. Sometimes it was sweet, but man, could it fuck you up.

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