Day at the Fair – The Prelude EP

Day at the Fair
The Prelude EP

I’m glad this CD came to the right person. Ninety percent of indie-rock reviewers would chuck The Prelude EP into the “sounds like everything else’ category and give it a crappy review based on the first two songs. I agree that this is not the greatest pop/rock album ever put together, but still, this deserves a lot more credit than some will give it.
Day at the Fair plays slick pop/rock. It’s the type of music that is made for radio; that enables you to guess where the chorus will drop; allows you guess the melody before it hits; that sounds either happy or sad or mad, with no in-betweens. In short, it’s the type of music every hardcore independent music fan HATES. It’s a good thing I’m not a “hardcore independent music fan’. I’ve been brought up in an environment that preaches the gospel of “listen to everything or critique nothing at all’, so I have no qualms giving anyone a good review (if they’re truly good). Day at the Fair is truly good, in a lukewarm sort of way.
The members of Day at the Fair do play their instruments well. Their sound is exceedingly inviting, comfortable, and cohesive; getting all of that together takes some serious talent. But just because a band induces the warm fuzzies doesn’t mean the members are creative. Day at the Fair is most definitely not the most mentally challenging thing to ever hit music (or even to hit radio). In the battle of “sounds good’ vs “creativity’, the band develops a seesaw effect: there’s a lot more radio-friendly touches than creative touches.
Even though there aren’t many superbly creative songwriting moments here, there is some truly terrible songwriting. The ending of the stupidly long ballad “Homesick Angels” is simply cringe-inducing due to the absurd addition of an 80s-style multi-ethnic choir (Ok, it’s probably not multi-ethnic, but it struck up horrible memories of Band Aid’s “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” which did feature a multi-ethnic choir).
There is something that counteracts the mediocre songwriting abilities here: The amazingly fresh voice of Christopher Barker. It sounds like Barker took a world voyage, collected the best element of every washed up pop-rock singer’s sound, fused the elements together, then proceeded to absorb the voice. Barker has the rough edges that Dashboard Confessional used to have (Think of The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most), and he covers Chris Carrabba’s range more smoothly than Carrabba has ever done. He also has some of the dirty crunch that FM Static’s Trevor McNevan has patented. This is most evident on “Kira Doesn’t Care about Anything, She’s a Nihilist,” where Barker belts out a stellar chorus that’s more than just a sing-along; it’s interesting, engaging, and worth repeating.
The vocals here have some serious promise. Put Barker in front of an indie-rock band, and I could easily see that band in charge of some serious underground power. But at the moment, he’s dragging around a mediocre band. Day at the Fair has instrumental talent to boot, but these musicians just don’t have the songwriting skills yet. Hopefully they will acquire some soon.