Led Bib changes direction radically with its new album, It’s Morning. It should change back. The British quintet, which has excelled at making an infectious hybrid of modern jazz, punk, and hard rock for the past 15 years, dials back the skronk, adds vocalist Sharron Fortnam to the band, and rounds out the sound with a cellist, a violinist, a bass clarinetist and, of all people, Jack Hues, the lead singer of ’80s new-wave band Wang Chung.
Nobody’s gonna have fun tonight. This music is bizarre, incoherent, and unpleasant. Fortnam is a talented singer, but her lovely voice is misused here. She often sings in unison with a saxophone or bass clarinet, but there are few logical melodies—the music is, in fact, anti-melodic, an assemblage of seemingly random notes. Three of the album’s nine tracks are inane interludes, and half of the album’s centerpiece, the 11-minute “Fold,” is little more than synthesizer/piano/saxophone noodling.
It would be unfair to expect any band to play the same kind of music forever, but this is such a huge departure for Led Bib that it ought to at least be interesting. Instead, it’s weird and ugly. What to make of a song like “O,” with its ominous piano intro, its middle section that sounds like a parody of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman,” and its over-the-top musical-from-hell finish? Or Fortnam singing, lullaby-like, on “Flood Warning” about forgetting an umbrella while the instruments swell into a cacophony? It’s like some unfunny circus.
Supposedly when Led Bib plays this music in concert, it’s accompanied by a film, and maybe that improves the experience. But an audio recording must be judged on its own merits, and on its own It’s Morning is a nightmare.
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