A witty press release (informing us of such gems as when head honcho Jason Friedman “drew pictures of Superman and the family dog” in 1981), delightful artwork and a thorough lyric booklet make for an impressive pre-amble to The Boggs’ third album following 2002’s ‘We Are The Boggs We Are’ and 2003’s ‘Stitches’. The band have expanded and acquired Christian Obermier of Schneider TM and Julian Gross of Liars amongst others, creating a more tuneful effort than the previous albums, which is innovative, rhythmically tense and lyrically vulnerable. By no means is this band normal, with their combination of distortion, precision, jumpiness, subtlety, drama and dissonance. Yet even with all this, 'Forts' is a magnificent album full of insight, intellect and super-perception.
The opening title track is a phenomenon, the sound of an army walking towards you, entirely together and occasionally taking a sidestep or doing a little pirouette. The vocal lines are like a call and response, and it’s really difficult to not be entirely captivated already, even on the first listen. As the album progresses, the mood varies from excited and dancey ('Remember The Orphans') to something altogether more pensive in One Year On, all with maximum energy, driven drums, differing syncopation and plenty of woo-woohs. The twinkle in 'Little Windows' is unashamedly innocent and infant-like, and provides a sharp contrast to the deeper, richer tones heard elsewhere in the album.
'One Year On' is a highlight with beautiful vocal build up and insightful lyrics, until the progression seamlessly enters the next stage with the shoe-shuffling 'Arm In Arm' providing a delightful simplicity rarely found in something so odd as The Boggs. The groove is also present on Melanie In 'The White Coat' which has a touch of the rockabilly about it, to vary things up completely.
Lyrically, The Boggs are spontaneous, fragile and almost stream-of-consciousness in their approach, creating inventiveness rarely seen without pretension. Amidst the ambience of 'The Passage' lies a deathly character reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’. 'Forts' is definitely a challenging listen, and may not be entirely accessible the first time around, but this isn’t a fault, more of an experiment. When you think you know what mood’s coming next, you’ll be guaranteed to get it wrong, with the tracklisting doing an excellent job of creating unpredictability.
Such a rare day is it that no criticism can be found of an album and the most obvious problem with 'Forts', if forced to name one, is that at times the production can sound a bit too shoddy and eclectic, notably on 'If We Want (We Can)'. If it was stripped back a tad more and made to sound less clattery then it would be nigh on a masterpiece.