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STEREO EMBERS ALBUM PREMIERE: Jad Fair & Samuel Locke Ward’s “Destroy All Monsters” via Kill Rock Stars

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OK well this is kind of insane. And by ‘insane’ we mean wonderful, and by ‘wonderful’ we mean who does this? That the answer by just about any reasonable standard is ‘no one’ should point with some whimsical accuracy toward the likely involvement of the likes of Jad Fair because, to be honest, who the hell else has the ceaselessly unfailing artistic energy to pull a stunt like this and make it work, not least when he’s once again enlisted Samuel Locke Ward as his co-conspirator in a matchup that, having already produced that chappy little charmer of a record Happy Hearts a few months back, was more or less pre-set to bowl us over anew. And, phew! Do they ever bowl us over and over and over again with the release of this longform video that acts as nothing less than a visual LP.

That LP is called Destroy All Monsters and, like the forty minute video that accompanies, it could not, to everyone’s delight, be more joyously Locked into that selfsame Fairish dimension that the above-linked album led us to expect. Eighteen tracks long, all thematically connected and wandering from whimsy to whimsy with – and this is an ever-important aspect to keep in mind with this lot – something bordering (if not outright crashing into) pure pop songwriting nous, there is as always with a Fair-minded project no place to get bored. From the snappy delicate opener “Dracula Has Risen,” news that’s elucidated with that typically daring nonchalance we’ve come to expect, basically advising us to just, y’know, get used to it, through the pepped up, clever-as-heck first single “Invaders From Mars,” “Crawling Hand” that plays like one of those creepy campfire storytime stories albeit one that just happens to have a killer bassline, “The Necronomicon” that’s about as punky and dramatic as we’ve heard these two guys, the fiddle-strewn “The Monster That Changed The World” with its inveterate, driving swing, all the way down to the ramshackle charm of the title track that gives way to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that ends the record with an appropriately haunting slice of timeless spooky pop enchantment dredged from the grave of some glorious American yesteryear, you’ll find all is effortlessly in place, ready to rekindle – or initiate if you’re new to this particular game – the zen-pop joy of the Half Japanese way we’ve all loved for so long. And yet, beneath all that, we feel there’s something else here, something more to behold.

For all the talk of playful, idiosyncratic pop in the work of Misters Fair and Ward, what’s missing from the heart of that perspective is the level of flat-out soul these two inject into their craft. From every indication, they seem to lend their tender inner selves to these songs with neither guise nor guile. Odd as it may seem to say, and in its way contrary to the reputation of innate naivete that precedes them, this is, at its core, devotional music plain and simple. Listen for that as you listen – and watch – this premiere.

We guarantee it’ll make your smile smilier. [Destroy All Monsters releases today, September 15 on Kill Rock Stars. Get it here.

Photo credit: Jad and Samuel]