Review | TaxiWars – Fever


Out November 18th via Universal Jazz

Rating: 7.5/10

By Karum Cooper

The opening track of ‘Fever’; coincidentally also happened to be the title track – I held pretty high expectations for the song for this reason. ‘Fever’ has tonnes of energy, the drums especially communicate across loads of drive and power; everything I expected from the first track of a Sophomore record. Unfortunately though, that’s all this track gave me. Melodically and harmonically speaking this song is really lacking. Those same two notes in the same rhythm repeat over and over again for the intro, the verse, the chorus non-stop for just shy of 3:30 whilst Tom Barman sort of mumbles a really emotionally lacking piece of lyricism.

It’s not actually until the final 40 seconds that we get a hint at some kind of harmonic/chordal movement – this lasts a few repeats and then the song is over. Disappointed with the lack of creativity here, the incredible musicianship on show within the band is really not communicated on this track.

One thing that really leaped out at me from the very start of the album, however, was the garishly raw, untouched and rather harsh sound of the kit throughout this entire album was a really great touch. Taking the character and warmth of a trad jazz kit from the 50s but melding it with modern production techniques and a much cleaner sound makes for a really contemporary and interesting sounding record. Not to mention the absolutely emphatic saxophone mix – it lacks a lot of warmth that I’d usually prefer from a tenor but for some reason the raspiness and bodaciousness of Robin Verheyen’s playing style is conveyed perfectly through this mix and it accompanies the raw drum sound perfectly.
There’s quite a few ‘safe’ album filler tracks on this record in my opinion. An album like this is a piece of art and so it’s very subjective – maybe the intent of some songs weren’t quite conveyed as expected. ‘Airplane song’ in particular seems rather lackluster; Barman’s lyrics and vocal performance especially when placed in comparison with a song like ‘Bridges’ seems exceptionally half-assed. Maybe that was the aim? It’s difficult to tell with these art-house types.

There are a bunch of pieces that give a good name to the ‘filler’ album tracks on this record though. Some really lovely melodic and harmonic elements take place here. Not quite single material but sporting a luxuriously subdued feeling – ‘Egyptian Nights’ in particular is one of my favourites on this record; it takes a while to get into the swing of things but Verheyen’s extremely versatile sax playing shines through in this – his ability to shred faster and higher than most guitarists yet really reign in for slower, more tasteful playing is very apparent.

There are tracks also make use of some really interesting musical ideas that aren’t explored elsewhere – some beautiful supporting piano parts, auxiliary percussion and even faint string parts add some very interesting elements (particularly toward the end of Egyptian Nights).

I do actually feel like this album boasts a handful of incredibly strong songs (particularly Bridges and Soliloque). The former of which of course being the single really captured me with that main saxophone phrase. It gives such a melancholy and slightly uneasily dark feeling which I absolutely love. The fact that this is doubled up by what sounds like some kind of marimba/vibraphone really adds to the eerily dark and almost twisted melodic phrasing. I’ve rarely been met with such a dark feeling from the lead single of an album so it’s very refreshing to hear.

‘Soliloque’ has heaps of attitude. Really brazen and outlandish vibes from such a badass sounding sax/drum opening riff – the rhythm and syncopated feeling of which really caught my attention from the get go. The verses (sung in french) really add to this – Tom Barman’s dulcet tones and borderline sexual make this track quite mischievous.

I feel like ‘Fever’ – such as many albums, has a bunch of songs that just seem to lack ever so slightly; perhaps had the band put a little bit more thought into the writing and even production process that problem would have been solved. Having said that, there are some exceptionally strong tracks here. The entire album for me seems to revolve around this feeling of eeriness, curiosity and has some really interesting dark and yet really brazen undertones which I absolutely adore. It’s this aspect of the group’s writing style that really grips me; many of the songs just have some kind of compelling nature that draws me into the world of TaxiWars which ultimately is the aim of most records!