by Niccolo Dante Porcello (@ChromeChompsky)
It is telling that in the opening moments of “Going Somewhere,” Katie Capri says “ready?”, before she and the rest of Fern Mayo launch into their Happy Forever EP; her decree is one that I keep returning to on every listen. Something comforting comes out of the otherwise unremarkable, outtake-ish moment, and it is a simple expression of the grace with which Fern Mayo ply their craft. The 7 track EP is a blissful power pop romp that stuns as much musically as it does lyrically. The power of Capri’s songwriting is clear on every track, but it never overshadows how damn rock and roll Fern Mayo is. Each limb of the band creates an understanding of the record as a conversation; between drums and bass, between rhythm and lead, between vocals and instrumentation. At nearly every point in all 6 full-tracks, the somewhat chopped ‘n screwed “……..” not counting here, the listener is being pulled in 4 directions corresponding roughly to each part of the composition.
The aforementioned “Going Somewhere” is perhaps the best song on Happy Forever EP if alarming beauty is your preferred modus. A Siamese Dream-y guitar pattern is rendered background when Capri’s voice enters, obliterating any and all pretext one would have for not listening to every single note on this record. There is an unquantifiable quality to Capri’s delivery that separates her from like-minded peers, a sort of fuck-you warble that demands to be heard. As she yells “its cold out here / its been damn near a year / since I lost all my fear” it seems immensely unwise to question this assertion.
The second track, “Open Work” bounces in time with one of bassist Nicholas Cummins’ always excellent progressions, again showcasing the delicate compositional balance that Fern Mayo often works with – as Capri screams “it’s a point of view / it’s a point of view” a wall of clever instrumentation simultaneously surrounds and bludgeons. “It’s a point of view” transforms into “it’s a point of you” (I think – there is a certain muddiness to some of the vocals that makes them hard to verbatim interpret) -- a fitting semantic satiation, in stride with the Capri’s earlier “I have nothing to say about her” declaration.
"Subsweet” and “Chomping at The Bit” mirror each other structurally and emotionally; in the former, Capri takes a more melting tone, in the later a more somber one. As she builds on the thought “reflecting the self questioning I haven’t gotten away from / we’re all just trying to be happy here” it’s clear that Fern Mayo exists as part of the long and growing tradition of catchy, meaningful rock a la, Swearin’, IAN, Charly Bliss, Jawbreaker Reunion, Radiator Hospital, and others. Fern Mayo shines as part of this ‘scene’ (if you allow) of catharsis-rock, where something that desperately needs to be said is done so with authority and without fear of condemnation. This is why the “ready?” in the opening seconds is so powerful; it’s a simple declaration that, indeed this is the real deal. Capri, Cummings, and (fantastic) drummer Charlie Bueno have made an immensely fun album that carries weight, and holds its own against any other release this year.