"Messy, confusing and daft, and utterly wonderful for it!" –NME
The above quote only hints at the pure brilliance of 8 Track Sound System, the debut album by Fonda 500, the lo-fi pop Gods from Hull, England. With this record Fonda 500 have created the single most simple, yet incredibly amazing work of art ever to grace music listeners’ ears.
The band sculpts their sound around their obvious influences, which include Super Furry Animals (the band considers Fuzzy Logic to be the best album ever), Grandaddy, and other UK pop bands. But from these influences Fonda 500 creates an incredibly original and unique sound that can only be described as Fonda 500. And no where does Fonda 500 shine more than with the 8 Track Sound System.
8 Track Sound System is twenty-one tracks, forty-two minutes twenty-one seconds of length and was recorded on, you guessed it, a Tascam eight track recorder in the bedrooms of Simon 500 and Nick 500. Even though the recording is limited to eight tracks, Fonda 500 are able to workout a lo-fi masterpiece, with guitars, drums, casiotone keyboards, and a slew of vocal harmonies. All of the songs manage to keep your attention with shimmering melodies and immense amounts of fun.
MUSIC FOR 8 TRACK SOUND SYSTEM
1. Casiotone Introduction
Birds fade in from the silence. A casiotone bell
voice counts off the tempo and then an organ swell joins in to form a very cinematic introduction. Sometimes a ruffle
of a person walking can be heard.
2. Interstella Invasion (2:51)
Description: The birds from the introduction flow over in the beginning of the first track and they are joined with a plucked acoustic guitar. The subtle voice of Simon 500 jumps in with a simple melody. Soon he fades out into background oo’s and aah’s while the vibraphone takes center stage. Towards the end of the song, as the birds continue their chirping, the oo’s and aah’s replace the vibraphone in the forefront but only to land on the last note.
Lryics: "Dropped by / bye bye / interstellar skies / where animals embrace / car wrecks / neck here / Atari’s now / Clarky’s matadors / home to stars"
Here comes the rock pop. With the introduction of live drums this simple guitar song is accompanied with a omnipresent beep-boop-synth-type sound that keeps a nice melody
. After the lyrics are done being screamed out everything cuts off and goes down to a very pleasant doo-doo-daa vocal harmony with swelling resonance. Towards the left and to the right random blip
s swirl; drums that were there now fade out, and a mouth drums are added. Everyone then fades out and the only remaining track is a sample of someone saying "You got it" looped over and over again.
"We’ve got soul
power / and we can take you higher / We got soul power / And we can take you"
4. International Feelings Of Love (2:03)
Description: "You got it" keeps repeating and the sound of a bomb falling pans in. The "You got it" voice screams as the bomb bursts and the song comes in with a very distorted guitar and a simple drum beat. Then comes the analog synth blips and harmonizing vocals. Live drums are cut out and really cheap drum machine drums are introduced. When the drum machine gets off tempo (how does that work!?) the song ends.
Lyrics: "I got a feeling / you’re in love with me / Tokyo’s lovely / and you’re so heavenly / I got a feeling / you want to be some / some kind of cinematic star / do you want to climb my tree? / you can climb my tree"
Clicky keys introduce the melody which is soon friends with distorted guitar and live drums; also some oooooooooooo’s. After a few times through the melody gets cut
short and a heavier part plays out with the baby baby’s coming in. Back into the main melody, more oo’s, and more baby baby’s. More of the same thing and then it ends abruptly while the melody goes on for a little while longer.
"Baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby
/ baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby / baby"
6. Warming The Warmth (1:09)
Description: This song is an instrumental of sorts. Guitar and bass lines are played on the mouths of the members of Fonda 500 with weird percussion shakers in the background. A quiet organ is somewhere in the background. This song fades in and fades out and seems just like a dream.
Lyrics: "Waaaaaoooo / waaaaoooo / bum bum bum / waaaaooooo / bum bum bum /waaaaaaooooooooo"
7. Ecoutez Les Grande Animaux Radio
This is perhaps the most interesting song on this very interesting album. A guitar picks a farmish sounding song while various farm animal
s squawk and squeal. Along with the guitar a pitch-shifting-theremin
-esque keyboard lays down a decent melody. Toward the end of the song the real animal sounds are replaced by humans trying to make those animal sounds. This is a very, very cool
"Hey / the animals are here / and it’s quiet clear / they want to share / their radios with us / tune into 500 / and you’ll hear / their radios / and I believe / the bear is going to sing
/ for you and me / grrrr…."
8. Passing Thru (2:20)
Description: This song almost sounds like a surf song but not in the way that you’re probably thinking. There is a sliding steel guitar and a rhythmic acoustic that are both very reminiscent of surfing at the beach. Later on the lyrics fade in over this almost jammy track and it just keeps going on and on, sometimes with oo’s coming over the guitar solo.
Lyrics: "Passing thru / passing thru / we’re just / passing thru / passing thru"
Very lo-fi lyrics in the left channel sing along with the main song that’s coming out of the right side. As that introduction ends the rest of the song comes in full force with the mechanical drums and distorted guitar. Very poppy
, you can almost see this song being the theme song for a TV show, that is, until it cuts out to an answering machine
message. But that doesn’t last too long and the song cuts right back in, only to cut back out after a little bit of a jam
"The electric alarm radio clock / tells me there’s no more / slumber
time for you / and me telephone realization / sleepy friends stay in bed all day / the stereo and the television / receive the sleepy time frequency"
10. Song For A Commerical (2:50)
Description: The beginning of this song is very formulatic; after the introduction verse they will cut to a part that’s just a vocal line and then back to a heavy verse part. Repeat that twice and then things begin to get interesting. When the song cuts for what you think should be the vocal line it goes into this very up beat casiotone jingle in 3/4 time signature. It goes on just long enough before it slows down a whole lot and finally ends.
Lyrics: "Aaaaaahhhhh / ooooooooo"
11. Pops #3
After an introduction sample of two men playing cards the song comes in. It’s another fuzz
ed out guitar-oriented pop song with an omnipresent falling down sound going on. After a while of the fuzzy the song fades out and it’s just a vocal harmony of "Special Super" being repeated with some aah’s and then an acoustic guitar and flute
. The flute and guitar duel with the harmony until the song comes to it’s end.
"Special super / special super / special super"
12. When We Are Together We Make No Sound (2:06)
Description: A horse counts down to the beginning of this track which is just acoustic guitar and vocals. After the first verse it’s the return of the flute until more vocals come in that are reverbed to hell. The sound of a horse trotting makes up the rhythm as the bass fades in for the end of the song.
Lyrics: "When / when I come around / we never make a sound / and then you grow / when we are together / we make no sound / together we grow / no sound together / we grow"
This song sort of comes out of no where. It’s a very serious sounding piano
song with a female vocalist. The song has Simon 500 in right channel reverb
vocals and cello
dead center. At the end of the song a cello drone continues on for about twenty seconds and then someone saying, "Try again. All right? Let’s just try again."
"Recall agents / future’s fragile / we must / remain strong / until the world / falls apart / I am yours / you are mine"
14. Little Carnies Hi-Fi (0:44)
Description: An acoustic guitar with what sounds like a casiotone harmonica. With the strumming a voice sounds off, "One, two, three." A slide guitar and another vocal line come in and the song is over before it’s begun.
Lyrics: "What’s playing / on little carnies hi-fi?"
15. Lucky Tokyo
This song is sung entirely in Japanese
and it’s actually pretty funny. It opens up with a group of people clapping to the opening chords giving the impression that the song is being preformed live.
16. The Glen McAffery All Star Singularity (3:18)
Description: Schizophrenic is the only way to describe this song. It’s another fuzz-pop song but there’s so much going on that it’s hard to figure out what’s going on at times. At times there’s a vocal line that sounds like 50’s bebop. After all that’s gone by the song fades into a toy piano line with vocals. This part is extremely developed and it has many part harmonies before it kicks back into the fuzz-pop jobber for a few seconds, then back to the harmonies, then back to the fuzz. Really all over the place.
Lyrics: "Space time / is infinite / nothing’s permanent / the glen mcaffery all star singularity / formless it all takes / it all takes time / the end is the beginning / the universe is spinning"
17. Get Nearer To Me And You’ll Always Be Warmed
This song is very similar to Warming The Warmth: it’s just a vocal harmony with various percussion in the background. During this song there is a monolog
about friction that is being read out of a textbook.
"I will keep you warm / I’ll give you warmth / I’ll keep you warm / in the night / get nearer to me / and you’ll always be warmed"
18. The Mexican Spaceman (2:38)
Description: A dentist drill. Most people don’t like the sound it makes and if you’re one of those people you should avoid this track at all costs; the primary instrument is the dentist drill. After that drill fades out a little the vocals come in to join the already going acoustic guitars. Some tremolo keys are played along with some beeps.
Lyrics: "…And you will miss me / when I fly away / inside my little rocket ship / I’m going to live on my own / surviving without anyone / I’m the Mexican spaceman / and I’m never coming home"
This song is purely a vocal arrangement swamped in reverb. I must admit that it is incredibly beautiful.
"The future awaits
/ this is the sound"
20. Untitled (3:13)
Description: The introduction fades into this acoustic guitar. In the background you can hear a television going and a male voice that hasn’t been on the album yet sings an incredibly sad song. In the middle of the track the song stops and just the television background reminds but then the song starts going again. The guitar messes up once during the song and it’s truly amazing.
Lyrics: "I will be in your dreams / when you feel alone close your eyes / remain calm / I will be with you soon / goodnight goodnight goodnight / my dear on / when you can’t sleep / think of me / when I can’t sleep / I think of you / I close my eyes / and thank god / and he thanks us too / good night mcaffery / good night my dear boy / goodnight my friends / may god preserve us all"
21. Untitled (0:03)
Description: Just a whispered voice to end the album.
Lyrics:"Good night McAffery"
LINER NOTES FOR 8 TRACK SOUND SYSTEM
The liner notes of the 8 Track Sound System keep the same spirit of the music; fun, bright, some-what childish, heck, it’s even on baby blue paper. There are funny drawings thrown about on the paper, mostly depicting analog sound devices, but some of hairdryers and matchbooks as well. Mixed in with these funny drawings there are also funny words, or they might be Japanese, I really can’t tell.
And then there is also some real content. Most of the real content is included below or above: PZM, PZSG, and the lyrics, which originally are one huge paragraph that takes up a full liner note square. Then there is also a relatively long thank you list, which is mostly irrelevant, so it was left out.
The Pan - Zone Scatter Graph
The PZSG is a four quadrant graph that takes up half of a liner note square. The X-axis is labeled 36 through zero, and is used to mark how close or far away the track sounds. The Y-axis is marked 0 to 40 and then 40 to 0, left and right. When you combine these two points you get an ordered pair. You place this ordered pair onto the coordiante plane and you have yourself a marked up PZSG.
Fonda 500 gives you instructions for the PZSG, auditory advice, and other fun suggestions in two paragraphs below the Pan - Zone Scatter Graph...
Copy & Complete
Various songs on fonda 500’s 8 track sound system benefit from the wearing of headphones simply because of the nature of STEREO. So why not try and make a game out of finding those songs, and perhaps make small thumbnail sketches to accompany the hunt, you know, as a reminder. Try out different volumes, pans, increased treble or bass settings. Move your hi-fi around and remember the golden rule*
There’s a song on fonda 500’s 8 track sound system that’s sung in a different language, that’s not English and because of this you as the listener may feel alienated. We suggest that you surround yourself with family to minimse the alienation and restore your sense of well being. Hey, why not have a fizzy drink and a crisp, that should settle you. Some of the songs have animals on, see if you can name them. Here’s one to get you started – the horse.
PRECISION HI FIDELITY OPEN MICROPHONE SYSTEM
The PZM microphone is illustrated underneath the tracklisting on the opening liner note square across from the CD tray. There is a front view and a side view given; it looks something like a computer cord with a cigarette lighter on the end. Five ingredients are listed for the PZM:
- 4mm IRON PLATE
- PRECISION HI FIDELITY PZM MICROPHONE
- PROTECTIVE 'GRAPHITE' CASING
- FLEXIBLE ANTI-STREE 'CABLE-PROTECT'
- STANDARD 1mm INSULATED WIRE
Later, on a different liner note square, underneath the thank you list paragraph, there is a small story staring the PZM microphone...
All acoustics, voices, bells, clapping hands, drinking glasses, birdsong, hair dryers, lighters, spinning tops, skipping panda bears, rulers, recorder, the voices of Gavin the Whirlwind, of Alistair and of Jim, toy elephants (thanks Jo Ray), narration, hammers, televisions, turntable scratching, and all non electronic instruments were recorded using the PZM microphone, the singer’s buddy. In an attempt to avoid vocal pops and hisses, the inclusion of a navy blue knitted hat was deemed necessary during the recording process, the hat was placed over the PZM microphone and the problems was no more…we said bye-bye to that particular problem…you might say that problem was in the bag or rather, in the HAT.
As I said above there is one page that is completely devoted to a few strange words, and I'm still not sure whether they're Japanese, some other language, or simply made up; either way, they're fun to say. The words take up the whole page and are, in fact, numbered one through six. A picture of a match book is also on the page.
- RÉMÒN GÍN TONÍKKUUÒTA
This album is hard to find, especially if you live in the United States. The only reason why I’ve heard it is because my brother lived in London for two years and he picked up this disc from a friend. If you want to purchase this disc you can get it at http://www.opalmusic.com or you could E-mail Fonda 500 themselves. Visit http://www.fonda500.com.
If you really want to hear this album but don’t want to pay for it /msg me and I’ll burn it for you. (I E-mailed the band and they said it was fine for me to burn the album for everyone I know)