Listen Up: Wednesday, July 09, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Tripp Fontaine

Random Thoughts on a Paper Napkin (FM/PM Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Give these guys points for having the imagination to take their name from the Josh Hartnett character in The Virgin Suicides. Beyond that, Tripp Fontaine is the most likely candidate for mega-success to be found in the management stable of ex-Sugarbomb drummer Michael Harville. Harville’s a guy who Knows What It Takes, having been through the biz wringer a time or two himself, and this group is his first significant discovery. Regarding this six-song e.p., Random Thoughts on a Paper Napkin, the short version is as follows: This thing has “radio” written all over it.

The longer version: Tripp Fontaine’s music contains all the essential elements of Britpop and American alt-rock (circa 1995) — underscoring how quickly the shock of the new gives way to the comfortable familiarity of the tried and true. The sound is both spacey and hard-edged, in places as bluesy as Stone Temple Pilots and as Beatlesque as Oasis, with the emphasis solidly on the songs. Singer-guitarist Troy Baker veers between vocal dynamism and enervated ennui; the acoustic bonus track “Stumble” shows that he’s still got the goods even without the Big Rock trappings.

The challenge to a band like this is to forge a distinct identity in an environment where listeners’ loyalty to artists is at an all-time low. (Besides Radiohead, who else these days releases records that are anxiously awaited and endlessly analyzed?) Blame internet downloading or the millennial generation’s attenuated attention spans. Either way, any band that produces a record like Random Thoughts, with all the right ingredients in place, still has to hope that radio jumps on The Big Song. (For my money, the likely candidates here are the anthemic “My Innocence,” the wall-of-sound “Piece of Mind,” or the appropriately titled “Spunk.”) After that, they roll the dice and pray they get more than one shot.

Sat at Club Clearview, 2806 Elm St, Dallas. 214-939-0077.


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