FullOn – Lost on My Way

Lost on My Way

Ok, ignore the fact that the three guys in FullOn are trying to look like hardcore rappers on the cover of this double CD, wearing ski hats, dark glasses, and little Madonna mics. Forget the fact that song titles here play into that game, with titles like “Any Trippers?” “Uhuru,” “The Countdown,” and such. Forget the fact that FullOn uses every keyboard gimmick in the book to call up beats and electronic bleeps and noises. Because, my guess is that’s what they want you to think. But then, maybe you do need to catch all that to get the point.
I’m not familiar with any older material from FullOn, but I know they did an album of songs relating to Alice in Wonderland. So I’m thinking that Lost on My Way is their songs in homage to a rap/hip-hop album. It’s not rap and hip-hop, that’s the point. Instead, it’s mostly some mellow, funky, and groovy songs with lots of bass and rhythm and plenty of keyboards. The band has released dozens of recordings, all apparently drug-induced wackiness. Taking these songs for what they are, a lot of these are really cool, trippy songs by a talented group of musicians. But when they start trying to be something they aren’t, the songs start to fall apart. The vocals especially are a problem, usually distorted electronically and sometimes purposefully altered to sound just downright silly. I understand that’s what the band was going for, but I so much prefer the serious grooves. Maybe I just don’t get the point after all.
So, two discs, 35 songs. I can’t go into too much detail, but I can talk about what I like and what I don’t. First, what works. “Penelope Pinstripe” has some of the coolest piano over soft drums and guitar, almost jazz or R&B, just beautiful and chill. When the band just gets down, like on “Uhuru,” they really manage to groove. The mellow groove on the lengthy, spacey “Time Traveler Pt. 2” is very cool, almost Greateful Dead Space-like. “Time is Time” has some cool, 80’s synth and video game weirdness going on. “Harmonica Concerto” is immensely trippy and psychedelic, and the 8+ minute “Walt and Merl” is very trip-hoppy. The almost Beastie Boy-ish “Past Night” with cool flute sections works, because the vocals are sincere and normal, a nice change. In fact, most of the second disc works, with cool synthesized instrumentation and much better vocal tracks. “Total Meltdown” has a very cool, organ-driven groove.
Now, what doesn’t work. And these are primarily the first songs on the first disc that use the vocals. Like “Any Trippers?” which starts off with a solid groove, bass-heavy and mellow, but the vocals just sound like they were recorded into the mic on a Casio. The vocals again spoil the funky, almost reggae groove of “The Looker.” “Trixxie” has the weirdest, fuzzed-out echoed vocals sung as if the singer was holding his nose shut. Why? “Trampin'” is the same thing. It’s obvious they’re mixing vocal snipets, but it just comes out sounding like someone is trying to refrain from throwing up. “The Tooth” is another example. A decent vibe is established, but the overly synthesized vocals, saying “watch out for the tooooooth!” just sound way too warped. “Mon” has a great hip-hop groove thing going on, but the vocals again just throw me off, downright silly and distorted to too much effect. The flippant “Shock Treatment” gets on my nerves. And “Ralph” has some good punk-rock, but the vocals are back, and the electronic noises give me brain hemmoraghes.
I can’t imagine this is FullOn’s wholehearted attempt to re-create a hip-hop sound, but rather it’s their homage to something related to hip-hop. Using decent bass, guitar and a drum-kit (there is no longer a drummer), as well as keyboards and mixers, the band is fooling around with different sounds, different vocal stylings, and different rhythms and melodies. At times, it works really well, perhaps better than they expected. Some of these songs groove so well, with elements of rock, funk, jazz and reggae all mixed in. But sometimes, the joke is just lost on me. I think that’s the point. As the band says on their website, now they are free to do whatever they want. And they are.