Fiction Plane – Left Side of the Brain
Bieler Bros. Records (www.bielerbros.com)
British pop-rock with a strong political influence and some reggae radness
As I listened to Left Side of the Brain, I was struck again and again by how much singer Joe Sumner voice reminded me of Sting’s. Then, while researching the band, I discovered that Fiction Plane is actually touring with the Police this fall. I thought it was pretty funny. Now, I don’t mean to imply that Fiction Plane is a Police clone; far from it. They definitely have their own style. But the two bands are both Brit pop acts that have obviously been influenced by ethnic musical rhythms. And Sumner’s piercing vibrato totally sounds like Sting’s. I wonder how their tour collaboration came about: did Sting hear Sumner’s voice and think, “Now, that guy can sing!”?
The lyrics on Left Side of the Brain belie more than a little dissatisfaction with world politics. In songs like the bouncy, reggae-tinged “Death Machine,” this is especially evident: “Don’t look so smug when we’re at war / You’re not the boss you’re just a whore / You keep your shoes so clean / Fuck you and your death machine / I ain’t gonna fight no more.” I’m tempted to quote the song’s lyrics in their entirety, but I shall refrain and simply hope that you go out and listen to the song yourself.
Now, in case you’re worried that this is another one of those obnoxious, self-righteously political bands (I’m looking at you, System of a Down), rest assured. Fiction Plane does a commendable job of implanting smart lyrics in catchy tunes, so you never feel like you’re being preached at.
One of the catchiest tracks is “Two Sisters,” another offering with a hint of reggae flair. In this one, Sumner bemoans the bizarre love triangle in which he appears to have gotten himself ensnared. Someone is angry about things, and that person has a gun. Bad news. Good song.
The album art is strikingly beautiful, created by Alex Lake in shades of grey with blood red accents. Here, again, there seems to be an embedded political message. The cover features two ballerinas, facing each other en pointe. They have wind-up keys in their backs, guns in their hands, and blindfolds over their eyes. They remind me of a variation of the Blind Justice figure. Inside, the dancers appear again, swirled together with machine guns, tanks, baying wolves and men on horses.
Fiction Plane is composed of strong musicians who play together well. Left Side of the Brain will appeal to fans of The Police (of course), but also to general rock fans and political malcontents.