Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

A Fine Fleet of Foxes indeed

14 Dec

Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues has the folk enthusiast in me cavorting around a metaphysical campfire in an imaginary forest somewhere in amongst my viscera.

This five-year-old band (that is, the band has been officially active for about five years. It is not comprised of five-year-olds. That would be mad.) presents a blend of baroque-inspired indie-folk-rock heavy with string instrumental, intricately-picked acoustic guitar-work, innovative percussion, chordal vocal harmonies and the leading vocals of Robin Pecknold, which, as well as sounding similar to those of Bob Dylan, reflect a subtle but nonetheless obvious Dylan influence in the melodies they depict.

Channeling soulful, relatable lyrics and sterling instrumental work is a mastery of volume and tempo dynamics extremely impressive for a band only releasing their second studio album. Helplessness Blues makes sudden switches from quiet, intimate moments to belted-out, multi-instrumental gallivants which create the feeling of having a private, contemplative moment alone in a room suddenly put into song by the band of enthusiastic musicians who have been hiding in the closet all the while. Whilst this  (repeated) occurence could easily have shocked or disgruntled listeners, Fleet Foxes have managed to blend together their drastic dynamic differences smoothly enough to flow (albeit quickly) rather than jolt, resulting in a musical experience that is exciting much rather than jarring. (“Sim Sala Bim” is a prime example of this amazing dynamic-phenomenon.)

On the other end of the “dynamics” scale, “Blue Spotted Tail” is a beautiful, bewildered ballad featuring only guitar and Pecknold’s vocals all the way through… although it fades straight into the very-much-louder “Grown Ocean”, which is the closest thing to straight rock you’re going to get from Helplessness Blues (good grief, it even has a “1-2-1-2-3-4” drumstick count-in)(Those count-ins are easily one of the most exciting things in generic pop-rock, by the way.) This track, in contrast with “Blue Spotted Tail”, is fast-paced and heavily underlined by a solid bass-pedal beat most of the way through, until it ends with 30 seconds of bare two-part vocal harmony with wind-chimes in the background.

The album’s title derives from a lyric in its title track (“Helplessness Blues”), which questions our society’s notions of careerism and the function of personal individuality within a pyramid structure of corporate servitude.

Helplessness Blues is a perfected collection of raw, real-sounding recordings which are powerful for their artful piecing-together. The album is an absolute triumph to the Baroque-Inspired Indie-Folk-Rock genre.


Post Scriptum: For anyone religiously reading these posts: yes, I am still two posts behind. I was going to catch up today, but instead continued to feel about as sickened as a hipster in a franchise store. More reviews are going to have to wait until I no longer feel like the rainforest that is my immune system is being nommed by tiny, tiny fuel corporations. Thank-you and good night.


It’s definitely a parenting thing.

19 Jun

The first music I ever danced to was Steely Dan.

The first music I ever recognized was Dollar Brand.

The first music I ever played (besides those AMAZING four-hour Free Jazz improvs I used to rattle off on our old Casio keyboard when I was 2) was JS Bach.

The first lyrics I ever really connected with were Pink Floyd’s.

The first lead guitarist I really fell in love with was David Gilmour

and the first person who I ever thought must’ve been the g-damn king of everything was undoubtedly Jimi Hendrix.


When he was 11, my dad busted his hardened-slacker reputation one year making sure he came top of his class, because if he did his dear old pops would buy him a guitar. He obliged: it cost him R12, and you could only really play it with a broken bottle-neck. It became known as “René’s gut-bucket” among the Avenant boys, and they would congregate from time to time to see who of them could prove their unshakeable manhood by holding three of its strings down long enough to strum a chord.

20 years later, though, he was composing music for the Jazzart dance company, and a further 20 down the line, despite his sinister B-Comm and Computer Science history, he’s finally a freelance professional musician. Whenever I bring a new friend home I kind of re-realise that my dad has a ponytail and the walls are lined with guitars, and I always end up pondering that where fathers are concerned, I really could’ve ended up with worse.

I was my dad who, conducting a series of experiments to determine what it takes to get a few-month-old dancing – and what this even looks like – discovered that I bopped up and down on my bum when he played Steely Dan. It was my dad who let me stay up a bit later because I’d jumped out of bed, having recognized the song my parents were playing, and it was my dad who showed me how to play Bach’s minuet in G and laughed when I converted it to Bach’s minuet in G minor. It was my dad who (masking numerous panic attacks) steered me away from Britney Spears and taught me about what had been going on in the world when Pink Floyd released The Wall. It was my dad again who, when the likes of Simple Plan began to find their way into our “music” folder, sat me down for a rather serious talk about Jimi Hendrix and his contributions to the rock genre. My dad taught me about contemporary music history and introduced me to the blues: its deep-running roots.

My dad introduced me to Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and The Beatles – all of whose music means so much to me that it feels weird saying just their names out loud when people ask me what kind of music I like.

Most importantly, though, my dad brought me up having been a victim of the “Ooh, we’re writing poo-imms, are we?” generation: he warned me that human civilization is a machine if not approached correctly, and never to let anybody turn me into a cog. He taught me to be suspicious of authority, and consistently drilled into my mind that I could do whatever I wanted with my life, as long as I was doing what I wanted.

Above all, he taught me to say “fuck you” (and loudly) to society when it needs to hear it, and it’s for this that I’m damn glad René Avenant is my father.


Poppa-bear is currently on lead guitar and vocals in The Hellfire Blues Club, and they’re pretty badass.