Sunday, May 1, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Fit for Rivals "Sugar" (EP)

Fit for Rivals
Sugar - EP
(Big3 Records)

Released several months
ago, this dandy little
record only recently
popped up on my radar.
Better late than never.

There I was frying under the Florida sun along with thousands of other sweat-soaked enthusiasts, basking in the sonic deluge of the 23rd annual Earthday Birthday concert held recently in Orlando — a day-long, outdoor rock juggernaut featuring some of the biggest acts in the biz.

As I stood near the front of the Bud Light stage at around noon, I became enthralled instantly by the nasty little collective that had currently commandeered the festivities. Then, I was struck suddenly by a wacky revelation WOW, Joan Jett and Brody Dalle must have had a baby! The love child seemingly born out of this biological breakthrough was frontchick, Renee Phoenix. And her grimy gang of misfits Jacksonville's own, Fit for Rivals. Hmm, I gotta buy this band's record, ASAP!

Fit for Rivals
(Orlando, FL - 4.23.16)
Produced by Stan Martell and Fit for Rivals guitarist, Thomas Amason at Martell Studios in Kingsland, Georgia, Sugar was released in the summer 2015 and is the long-awaited follow-up to the band's 2009 debut, Steady Damage. Boasting ALL thriller, and NO filler, this concise four-song collection kicks me where it counts. In fact, Sugar is so sweet that it's become my current go-to aural pleasure — now living full-time in my car hi-fi, in my laptop iTunes library, and in my smart phone.

"This is the stuff that I've
dreamt about doing as a child.
So to see it all pan out the way
it has been, is spectacular."
-Eli Clark
(Fit for Rivals)

Written by Amason and Phoenix, "Special Kind of Crazy" swings stylistically from elegant to edgy, and is glossed lyrically with gobs of psycho relationship tension. A compelling kick-off, for sure.

Another Amason / Phoenix songwriting collaboration, the alluring "Light That Shines" serves as a slightly "healthier"-sounding, pop-charged love song. Driven by super-crunchy ambient guitar work, colliding with snappy, Killers-style keyboards, this one makes me wanna party like it's 2005, all over again.

Delivering another infectious dose of sizzling, romantic dysfunction, the Phoenix / Dorman Pantfoeder-penned, "Freak Machine," zings nicely, and also was the one tune that thwacked me the hardest when I saw the band live. "1, 2, 3 baby get on your knees. You better never let off. You better do as I please." Pure Shakespeare!

Packing bona fide prizefighter punch, and oozing gloriously buzzing guitar work, "Hit Me" crushes completely with monster-sized riffs pinned against Phoenix's most convincing performance of the set. Holy crap somebody call 911! That little girl has a Marshall stack stuck in her throat!

Fit for Rivals "Hit Me"

In sum, Sugar exceeded my expectations — although, I will say that the record is far more effective and compelling when leaning less on modern pop, and more on Iggy pop. However, Fit for Rivals does continue to spank me unmercifully, like a naughty schoolboy. And if I don't get to see the band perform again live, soon — I may be driven to acts of desperation that probably won't play out too well on the six o'clock news. Just sayin'.

-Christopher Long
(May 2016)

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