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the matthew show


Fiction Plane - Everything will never be ok

The last thing Fiction Plane singer/guitarist Joe Sumner probably wants is to be compared to his father. You may not know it, but Gordon Sumner is in fact one of the most successful pop songwriters of all time, having released scores of Top Ten hits over nearly 4 decades under the tidy moniker of Sting.

But in addition to sticking with the old family name (though what would he be, Sting Jr.?), there is no mention whatsoever of the bandleader's famous father on Fiction Plane's debut album, Everything will never be ok.

Which doesn't really change the fact that if you didn't know better, you'd think someone had frozen the Police in carbonite after Message In A Bottle, then thawed them out, sat them down to listen to the big albums of the past 20 years (yeah, yeah, don't bother me with your space-time paradoxes), and set them to work on this record.

All of this is complimentary, by the way. Most bands would kill to possess the combination of hell-bent energy and compositional skill that defined the early Police.

Here, Fiction Plane is perhaps even more adventurous, venturing occasionally into prog-rockish territory that would've been oh-so-passe in the late 1970s. To boot, the younger Sumner has wisely opted not to sing in a silly Jamaican accent, which will make this record far more listenable in 20 years.

And it is a highly listenable record. Though it does take a couple of passes to get you acclimated to Sumner's voice. Again the Sting similarities are unavoidable as Sumner reaches for notes he can't quite hit, but does it with such confidence that it sounds spot-on.

Sumner and crew (Dan Brown, bass, backing vocals, keyboards; Seton Daunt, guitar; Abe Laboriel, Jr., drums) are gifted writers and arrangers, with every track eminently singable. The standout is the Oasis-like Hate, which would be a Britpop spoof if it weren't so damned good:

"We're cool, we're different
And we hate things
Yeah, we hate things
We hate people..."

There are plenty of great tracks to go around. The album opener, Listen to my Babe, starts as a grooved-out, bluesy jam, but resolves into a fine, jangly pop tune. The driving Cigarette threatens to move into Blink 182 territory, but is saved by better lyrics and the absence of annoying surfer-boy accents. The spooky Wise is probably the hardest rocker on the disc, and shimmers with a dark energy.

It seems the band's strategy for rocking is through energy rather than through turning up the distortion, and this approach works well for them.

The only weakness here is a tendency towards naivete in some of the more world-weary lyrics, such as a damned singable but untitled hidden track:

"Don't tell me that you fight for principles
When you fight for yourself..."

And Soldier Machismo, which scolds:

"What is there to say that if they all lay down
My home would be gone..."

But this can actually be a bit charming at times, and is sort of a companion to the youthful energy that drives the disc.

And not to invoke Daddy once again, but I somehow suspect that we're only seeing the first phase of this band's development into what could be a real pop powerhouse. At this point, the Sumner in Fiction Plane could be teaching an older Sumner a thing or two about rock and roll.