It is universally acknowledged that new bands have twenty years to write their first album, and a year to piece together their second. Instead, Fish Co took time out to consider their whereabouts and concentrate on the team-building process of performing with a full band. While the lyrics remained as naïve and direct as ever, musically Fairnie & Rowles moved mountains between Can’t Be Bad and the follow-up Beneath the Laughter .
Second albums are a time to reflect on life on the road, a life which is generally viewed through the grey-tinted glass of Transit vans and hotel bedrooms. Hence the request for “peace beneath the laughter” or the admission that “my friends and I feel the pressure”. Still there was a feeling that they were doing the right thing, and a conviction that they had to carry on.
Fish Co were still as bright-eyed as a Watership Down bunny, faced with the neon lights of the city and reassuring themselves they would cope where others had faltered. Miss Esther Lauden, for example, is the story of a girl who bites off more she can chew in the big smoke, and whose only way out is eventually to return home. Elsewhere, the wild 70s Children are given a knowledgeable word of warning, when in fact there is a niggling feeling that the anti-establishment punks are exactly what Fish Co are dying to be themselves, bar the rudeness to the Queen, naturally. Similar accusations are levelled at the Super Heroes of the pop scene, bringing them back down to earth with a bump by reminding them that they’re mere mortals. Again, a thinly-veiled message to keep tabs on any urge to give egos free rein.
The band is as tight as a tight band can be and, in the title track especially, meander upwards into a whole new dimension. The atmospheric and emotional crescendo in the opening number is surely the ultimate Fish Co moment, as the insistent drum riff gets washed away by a deluge of guitar and harmony vocals. Throughout the album, delicate string arrangements add a delightful touch, as do the keyboards of ATF’s Pete Banks.
But if you’re looking for goose-bumps, you could do far worse than to check out Paul Field’s fragile Fender Rhodes introduction to Across The Table, light-years away from the end of the song and its seamless key-changing segue into Fish Co signature tune Precious Lord. Enormous.
Produced by John Pac
Recorded at The Old Smithy, Worcester, and at ICC Studios, Eastbourne
Engineers: Colin Owen & Brad Davis, Andy Kidd (ICC)
Words and Music: Fairnie & Rowles
Acoustic Guitars & Vocals: Steve Rowles & Steve Fairnie
Backing Vocals: Bev Sage & Barbie Benson
Lead Guitar: Jules Hardwick
Bass Guitar: John Gordon
Drums: Rowan O’Duffy
Keyboards: Pete Banks
Saxophone: Paul Ryan
Clavinet: Colin Owen
Fender Rhodes: Paul Field
String Arrangements: Dave Anfield
Cover Concept & Design: Bev Sage, Steve Fairnie & Steve Rowles (Courtesy of B&S Promotions)
Graphic Design: Ray Bruce
Photography: Bev Sage
Live Shots: Tony Neeves
Pierrot Doll & Location: Clark Hanford
Released by Grapevine (Grapevine 114)