Fruit Bats’ fifth album Tripper is, well, it’s a tricky one. At times, principle songwriter Eric D. Snider creates a wonderful, spacey pop-driven atmosphere — one full of catchy hooks and bubbly acoustic guitar riffs that we, as listeners, never want to exit. But, at other times, this dreamy space just isn’t there and the results are, frankly, kind of a mess. The pops and hooks and synths get lost amongst themselves, unsure of their direction, and as a result, work best as lullabies to put you to sleep.
The reason for this is simple: Acoustic pop is a really fucking hard genre to master. The music needs to be both catchy and innovative, which is a difficult task. Moreover, acoustic pop is a very common genre because the music comes from the “traditional” approach of guitar, bass, drums and vocals — but “traditional” doesn’t necessarily translate “easy.” Most of the time, the more traditional music is, the harder it is to channel creative and innovative thought.
On Tripper, Fruit Bats sometimes defeat these challenges, but more often, the band doesn’t. At times, Snider gives us great, blissful gems like the album’s lead single, “You’re Too Weird” or the closing track, “Picture of a Bird,” two songs that capture the essence of acoustic pop — bouncy, upbeat, and simple, fun music. But at other times, like the almost six-minute long “The Banishment Song,” the band tries doing too much. There’s too many synths, too many hooks, and just too much happening for us to enjoy it. The charm is gone, and we’re left with a mess too muddy to understand.