By Dave Beech
September 18, 2013
Before the inevitable happened and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin Foundation found out their late first president had unwittingly leant his name to the indie-pop band from Springfield, Missouri, Philip Dickey and co, otherwise known as Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, joked that that would signify the end of the band. As it happens, it wasn’t. Instead the band found themselves on a plane to Russia, ready to mingle with the contemporaries of their namesake; a far cry from the death knell Dickey had wrongly predicted. Upon returning to the States the band headed back to where it all began…the attic of guitarist Will Knauer‘s parents’ house and began the painstaking task of writing and recording album number four. Whether it’s the return to their geographic roots, or whether it’s something more personal remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that Fly By Wire almost seems like a return to the band’s musical beginnings, and while the departure of John Cardwell takes some getting used to, when one does, the album slowly begins to reveal itself as their strongest release since 2008′s Pershing.
The first thing that becomes clear, almost immediately in fact, is that the production qualities have improved tenfold when compared to any of the albums which Fly By Wire proceeds, and while this isn’t strictly a bad thing, it does suggest a movement away from the ‘twee’ moniker that has shadowed them since their inception. The second thing one notices, is the sudden influence that contemporary indie bands seem to have had on SSLYBY, particularly when it comes down to album opener ‘Harrison Ford’. It’s not as if the band have completely done away with the Sixties-tinged pop sensibilities that made previous outings so infectious, it’s as if they’ve matured somewhat, taking equal influence from bands such as Veronica Falls as they do The Beach Boys.
There are, of course, tracks on the album which couldn’t be any other band. ‘Cover All Sides’ is quintessentially Boris Yeltsin, albeit with a chorus that smacks of dream-pop overtones while ‘Nightwater Girlfriend’ could easily have been taken from Pershing, which certainly warrants no complaints whatsoever. Perhaps one of the newer aspects that needs pointing out, is the inclusion of a much higher level of crunch on the guitars, perhaps a further effort to alleviate any twee tarring which could occur thanks to some of the records softer, more melodic moments.
One gripe worth mentioning, is the inclusion of the occasional electro-infused breakdowns, such as that midway through the aforementioned ‘Nightwater Girlfriend’, and while it certainly isn’t just SSLYBY that fall victim to this, it seems as if it’s a token gesture, warranted only by an apparent need to diversify their sound, or pander to a fashion, really has it been more unexpected, nor as unnecessary.
Complaints aside, Fly By Wire is an accomplished collection of tracks. It might not be as strong as Pershing but that would have been a big ask anyway. As an album it’s appeal lies in it’s simplicity, rarely appearing convoluted or contrived it’s straight forward indie-pop that occasionally veers in to twee territory, despite numerous efforts to avoid such tags. And while the band seemed to need some persuasion to go back in to their ‘studio’, the end product is something as charming as it is melodic and by all means a record fans of the band should invest in even if it isn’t one that will draw in many new faces.