Fruit Bats | Reckless Records | In-Stores | Chicago Reader

Fruit Bats Recommended Free Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Sun., Sept. 20, 3 p.m. 2009

Former Chicagoan Eric Johnson has long thrived as a sideman—he first made his mark in Califone, and more recently he’s been part of Vetiver’s live lineup and joined the Shins as a full-time member. But his erstwhile home-recording project the FRUIT BATS has been a proper band (albeit an intermittent one) since 2000, and as a leader he favors rustic, sunny pop-rock and pastoral reveries. It’s been five years since the group’s previous album, but on the new The Ruminant Band (Sub Pop) they pick up right where they left off: their sound is still invitingly lived-in, and Johnson is still singing about romance and nostalgia in his sweet, high-pitched voice. On “Beautiful Morning Light” he invites his lover to join him up in a tree to enjoy “the foggy waning dawn,” and the narrator in “Singing Joy to the World” describes a brief, largely unrequited romance that’s forever linked in his memory to songs by Three Dog Night and Prince. The Fruit Bats’ melodies are stuck in the 70s, their rollicking tunefulness untouched by cynicism (and by any style of the past two decades), and the band’s current lineup—which includes drummer Graeme Gibson, who also produced the new record—brings them to life in unfussy arrangements that readily give up their pleasures to anyone who can still listen to the Drive unironically. —Peter Margasak

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