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February 1999 Pick of the Month
GoesAroundComesAround
Artist: Fono
Label: KMG Records(US) /Word (UK)
URL: http://www.fono.net/
Time: 10 tracks / 41:03 minutes (UK)
           12 tracks / 46:52 minutes (US)

Fono's GoesAroundComesAround is simply one of the most surprising albums I've ever come across in Christian rock. Opening with "Collide," the first thirty seconds might make one think they've bought an experimental electronic album. This is not the case, but it makes a good transition into what turns out to be an excellent fast-paced opener for the album. The band churns out nine more wonderfully produced songs ranging from the guitar-driven selections "Under My Skin" and powerful "Alcatraz" to mellow songs like "Now She's 24." While overall they have a harder-edged sound, their softer selections border on The Goo Goo Dolls, giving this album something for every alternative rock fan. Amazingly well balanced and assembled, this is album is quite close to flawless, resulting in what appears to be an excellent blueprint for any band wanting to enter the Christian alternative music scene.

Corey Welton (10/4/98)

In 1996 an unknown independent band received their first booking. They were asked to support Bon Jovi before 60,000 people. That band was Seven, now known as Fono, and for their second album they have decided to sign with a Christian label while keeping up their links with mainstream clubs in the UK. I must admit that having loved the raw sound of Seven's album, my approach to this more produced release was somewhat cautious. For the most part, such caution was unjustified.

A fairly focused alternative rock act, Fono have mellowed somewhat since they first started, bringing their pop sensibilities into a stronger role, allowing Del Currie (ex-Split Level and Tribe Of Dan) to use his vocals in a slightly wider context. The arrangements are tight and the odd touch of electronic trickery or vocal distortion adds to the sound nicely. The mix is a little bright for these tastes, but this will probably serve to provide extra commercial accessibility. The extra guitarist that joins Currie in filling out Fono's sound live doesn't appear on the album, but Ian Crawford and Andy Ridley enrich the sound with their bass and drum talents, respectively.

The lyrics are painted with a fairly broad brush, covering a number of issues and leaving plenty open to interpretation. "Now She's 24" is the most overt in its Christianity, featuring the story of a girl turning to Christ, with the prominent lyrics "Jesus I am yours"-I personally preferred the older version of this on the indie release, which was far more aggressive, but this version's more acoustic feel has grown on me. "Burn" is a pure alternative single, with strong wah-wah and clear, passionate lyrics:

Take this life
It's all I have to give
Knock me down
I never wanted this pride
Tie my hands
So I can do no wrong
Blind my eyes
With the fire in my mind
You burn me up, you burn me
Goesaroundcomesaround doesn't quite do Fono's mesmerizing live show justice, but in a market flooded with weak grunge rehashes it's an honest album with enough grittiness to hold its own. The band are touring around Europe at the moment and hope to be in the US in the new year to coincide with the album's release to that market. See them live if you can, but check out the album too.

By James Stewart (10/31/98)

A review for this album doesn't need to be long. GoesAroundComesAround is probably the best radio-ready alternative rock album by Christians ever, no contest. Almost every song could rule the charts if given the chance. These Brits have taken all the post-grunge pop tricks and tools and have fashioned a superbly solid, catchy, sonically-pleasing collection of songs with quality lyrics that avoid clichés and explore spiritual issues with varying degrees of subtlety. Fans of Common Children and Dishwalla take particular notice, but also anyone into Tonic, Everclear, and the Goo Goo Dolls.

They obviously had a generous studio budget and a producer with the ability to draw out a wide range of tones and sounds. Drum loops and samples fill in the spaces without drawing attention to themselves. The only criticism could be that it's all been done before in one form or another. Still, it's like the band took a paint-by-numbers kit and came back with a gallery-worthy masterpiece. You'll undoubtedly have  "I've heard this song on the radio before" syndrome, but that's just because Fono has tapped into that inner place all songs must tap into to make millions of radio-listeners's ears feel nice and their mouths smile.

Josh Spencer  (1/21/99)


 

Josh Spencer, contributing senior associate editor for The Phantom Tollbooth for over two years, is also publisher and editor-in-chief of spiritual pop culture webzine Stranger Things.  Reviews and articles by him are usually simultaneously published in some form at
http://www.strangerthingsmag.com.

A colossal sound, some spiffy production techniques, vigorous vocals, and a few well-played chords can get you pretty far in the music biz. Although Fono offers pretty standard stuff for nineties modern rock, they transcend the sameness of their alternative peers a smidge. So what if the vocalist sounds like Sting (and others) at times, that the riffs are often ripped from the Foo Fighter's catalogue, or that the lyrics cover familiar ground. What they lack in distinctiveness, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. Their dedication to perfecting their craft is amply evident, and their conviction of God's abundant grace is sure. Even if they haven't reinvented the proverbial wheel, by expertly employing some catchy hooks here, clever phrases there, and relentless energy everywhere, they'll win you over and you'll feel fine about being force-feed the same old sounds and sentiments again. In Fono's case, what has gone around really has come around, but at least they've done it with impressively gutsy style and a fair bit of wit.

Steven S. Baldwin   9/17/99

It's been over a year since Fono's debut first landed in the CD players of UK-based fans. In that time they've been shunted between US labels and had time to do a little more work on the album. So it is that this re-release (to the UK market) of GoesAroundComesAround sees the final track of the original, "All Falls Down," removed, the addition of three new tracks, and the album re-organized.

This was already a good album, but the changes have managed to round things out a little. "All Falls Down" is no great loss, and the new track listing works a little better. Of the new tracks, "Round and Round," an appropriately repetitive track would probably work well as a radio single. "Drift Away" has a larger, more "stadium" feel to it, while "Splendid" is a restrained closing number.

The changes haven't improved the album all that much, but it feels a little more complete with its added length. With their current spot on the Goo Goo Dolls tour it can only be a matter of time before Fono hit the big-time.

James Stewart 10/15/99

The Fono narrative over the past five years could be broadly categorized as an alternation between daunting achievement and unlikely obstacles. After finding moderate success in the European pub and club circuit with his former band, singer Del Currie voluntarily detached himself from the music scene for a year.  After his sabbatical, Currie teamed up with friend Ian Crawford and churchmate Andy Ridley to form Fono (then known as Seven) and record an independent album which gained little attention.   Undiscouraged, the trio entered and won a music competition which netted them an opening slot for Bon Jovi before 50,000 fans at England's Milton Keynes outdoor arena in July of 1996.  The band signed with Zomba Music and began recording their major-label debut album in England under producer Adi Winman (London Suede, Jamiroquai), who did work on the group's earlier demos. goesaroundcomesaround released in Europe in the fall of 1998 but, due to corporate restructuring at Zomba, the band was left as free agents and the album wasn't released in the US.   However, in early 1999, members of Nashville's KMG Records signed the group after seeing their live show in the UK and released the US version of goesaroundcomesaround in August of that year.

The music on the US debut builds its foundation on the now ubiquitous, energetic post-grunge of groups like Bush and Collective Soul, adding equal parts of Stone Temple Pilots' imposing arena rock styling, the Alarm's passionate vocal delivery and the Goo Goo Dolls' penchant for hook and melody.  While such a combination of parts is certainly familiar enough, the way in which these elements are played against one another is both inventive and engaging.  The melody lines, which are usually delivered at an enthusiastically brisk pace, employ an unusual combination of drone and lilt that instills the songs with an extremely buoyant and infectious quality. The vocals, on the other hand, are delivered with a graceful, almost restrained, precision that works, oddly enough,  to highlight rather than offset the intense musical backdrop.  And the highly regular rhythms and nursery rhyme-like melodies that pervade the album give songs like "Round and Round" and "Pretty You" a pleasantly curious sense of familiarity, even at first listen.

As striking as the music on goesaroundcomesaround is, the lyrical portion is perhaps even more notable.  The wording of "Pretty You" (If I do I do it for myself/ If I fail then I blame no one else/ Oh pretty you/ Pretty you/ Pretty you), while ostensibly simple, employs a sharp sense of parallelism and repetition that fits flawlessly within the albums' highly metric musical construction.  The semi-obscure, REMesque "Pusherman," (I touched the sun, it burned my hand/ I touched the moon to cool it down/ I pushed the plunger one last time) conveys its premise by way of broad impression rather than direct statement, subtly enticing the listener towards a more careful examination of the song's lyrics.  And the phraseology on the beautiful anthem "Splendid" (So the day begins completely/ Nighttime fades away discretely/ Sunlight from your eyes/ Drowns the darkness from the skies) is quite simply pure, well-written poetry.

While the preponderance of goesaroundcomesaround contains notable musicianship and songwriting, the album does have its missteps.   The language on "Drift Away" (We rise and we fall/ We stand one and all/ We reach for the skies/ In your eyes) is both overreaching and cliche'd.   And, the mid-tempo "Alcatraz," which resorts to the overused comparison of emotional distress to imprisonment, is particularly listless, especially in light of the verve and wit that pervade the bulk of the rest of the release. Such lapses, though, are decidedly few and even the weaker material is arguably on par with the lion's share of alternative pop/rock now being released.  All said, the distinctive and well-crafted goesaroundcomesaround stands as one of the more impressive albums in recent memory and, indeed, an imposing entry into the elite catalog of essential Christian rock music.

Bert Gangl 05/19/2000

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