Following a 2015 EP, a live set on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show, airplay on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6Music programme, a massive concert in Milan and a muddy bonanza at The River Cottage Festival, Reading-based indie 5-piece, The Fleas, are back with their first full album release, Square Peg.
The album celebrates a new, tougher direction for the band, both in soundscape and subject matter. Seamlessly leaping into a world of enormous riffs and grooves, Square Peg blends classic indie sensibilities with equal measures of soul, funk, and – a new addition - beautiful big brass chops.
Running through the new collection is a solid faith in the power of songwriting, with big choruses, fat riffs, and grooves to keep the whole engine ticking along. Lyrically sharp, the new clutch of 13 songs shows a consciousness and gritty recognition of real world dilemmas, often wittily framed in absurdist situations you’ve never heard before.
In Dressed as Food, the album’s first single, a bemused employee shares his work history while handing out food samples in a shopping mall.
The hyperbolic Push flashes a moment of commuter irritation (“You push you shove your way onto the bus/ We’re all getting on but you have to be in front of us”), extrapolating small-scale rudeness to a world where governments farm humans for meat in preparation for the end of the world.
Blending indie snarl with timeless songwriting, the band’s sound remains unmistakable, yet shifted, into something more condensed and in tune with the feeling of the times. These are songs of wistful, angry yelling through the bars of the palace gates, as full of hope as they are knowingly absurd.
For a band known for mashing styles, Square Peg shows a new power and confidence in the art of genre bending. The blends are all still there but the joins are invisible. Dig deeper to hear big rock bangers sitting neatly on drum and bass backbones, bitching funk getting a Cure-ish overhaul, and moments of tenderness and chic that spring out like rays of pure Kinks sunshine.
Vocalist and writer Piers peppers his lyrics with worldly wisdom, his voice embellished by gorgeous three-part harmonies courtesy of percussionist Bernadette and drummer Mannie. Completing the line-up are Graham on bass, Chris Ambidge on lead guitar and two new brass additions in the shape of Ollie Wyatt on trumpet and William Lewis on saxophone. Live, the band are a unit, loving every minute. On record, they’re something you’d given up hoping would happen again.
The Fleas are outsider music at its best. Catch them live and be bitten forever.