In February 2008, Nate Reuss’ band The Format was supposed to release a new album to follow up their sophomore album “Dog Problems.” Instead, the increasingly popular band broke up. The news devastated fans, but it was not long before lead singer Reuss debuted his new project, a band called “fun.” Despite an unfortunate name with awkward punctuation, the band’s first demo “Benson Hedges” featured the same powerful vocals and surprising instrumentals that had become The Format’s trademark, but whereas most of The Format’s song centered on a brooding Nate and his struggles with women, this single was more upbeat. The song featured gospel singers and fast paced lyrics about Nate’s desperation to get out of Arizona. The song is about moving on, and while it was clear that fun. would still have obvious ties to The Format, this was a different band.
When the full length album was released in August of 2008, it featured ten songs that all seemed to confirm what fans had heard in “Benson Hedges.” Gospel singers were featured on more than one song and full band arrangements backed up Nate’s refreshing vocals. The album begins with “Be Calm,” one of its strongest tracks that is sure to grab the listener’s attention, which is anything but calm. The lyrics on “Aim and Ignite” as a whole were far more positive than those of The Format’s, and while the songs are shallow at times, fun.’s songs succeed by charming you into not caring about occasional lapses in writing quality. The catchiest track, “All the Pretty Girls,” is not a lyrical masterpiece, but the melody and instrumental arrangement are both so strong that the lyrics become an afterthought. The album dips slightly on the trite and uninspiring “I Wanna Be the One,” but it rebounds with “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)” which (along with the final song of the album) tosses a bone to fans of The Format by referencing some old The Format songs. “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)” and “Walking the Dog” are two of the more experimental songs on the album that at times seem to pay homage to Queen, especially with the first. Even when they simplify things and slow the melodies down, fun. never loses their charm. In fact, “The Gambler” and “Light a Roman Candle With Me” are two of the most impressive songs on the album, and their placement gives the listener a much needed respite from blaring trumpets.
The album is certainly different from those of The Format. It is happier and more mature in the themes it addresses, but the writing itself is not as tight as it was when Sam Means helped refine the lyrics. The lack of Means negatively affects the quality of the lyrics, but Nate’s new bandmates excel in backing up his wide vocal range with instrumentals that are equally as impressive.
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