The Fifth Business, Fiction Pilot
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
It’s funny how definitions of music genres change over time. Once upon a millennia, “alternative” represented an actual, well, alternative from the cookie-cutter fare found on mainstream airwaves. Now, of course, “alternative” is said cookie-cutter fare. Similarly, the term “indie” was originally nothing but a way of differentiating independent artists from those on major labels and had little to do with any specific sound. And now? It’s a genre unto itself, complete with its own timeworn, telltale characteristics, and is likely destined for the same fate that has befallen its graying alternative grandfather.
Since we’re on the topic, I’d like to propose — or perhaps predict — a new genre: “classic indie rock.” This would obviously cover all the usual suspects: BTS, Pavement, anything related to Elephant Six, et al. But it would also be a fitting descriptor for that particular type of modern outfit that chooses to walk in any of those bands’ enormous Chuck Taylor-made footsteps. For example, The Fifth Business.
The Burlington-based quartet is unquestionably an “indie” band. Jangly guitars? Check. Literate, bordering on pretentious, wordplay? Check. A huge debt to Built to Spill? Check, check. The Fifth Business is a classic indie rock band. And as their debut EP, Fiction Pilot, reveals, they are also a pretty solid one.
“Jack London” gets things under way — see “literate, borderline pretentious,” above. The tune is a fitting introduction to the Pitchfork-friendly fare to follow. Amid requisite guitar chicanery and marching percussion, vocalist/guitarist Deane Calcagni presents a sort of Isaac-Brock-by-way-of-Doug-Martsch-styled front man — see “Built to Spill, huge debt,” above. It’s a pleasant, if not altogether original, addition to the local indie rock canon.
“Fairbanks 142” slows the party down in a haze of lilting, reverb-washed guitars. Calcagni is joined by a nifty swell of backing vocals at the chorus — courtesy of his brother, Ted, presumably overdubbed several times.
Burlington ode “Sleight of Hand” is next and continues the band’s sturdy, albeit unspectacular, exploration of indie rock convention. You’ve heard this stuff before. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it’s done well, as it is here.
“7/8” represents the album’s most overt stylistic departure as it is, in fact, played in 7/8 time, at least in parts. It’s a neat trick, and a fun track.
Album closer “Oh Dear God!” wraps up the EP in fittingly “classic indie rock” style, complete with a touch of slackerly dual-guitar wanking at the finish. Stephen Malkmus would likely approve.