Foggy City Orphan – Cheer Up

I first saw Foggy City Orphan at a charity gig in Gourock a few years ago, where I knew nothing about them but had gone along as moral support for one of the other bands. Said other band were due on stage directly after FCO and were left asking the question, “How the hell do we follow that?”

Cheer Up by FCO was released on 29th March and since then I’ve been asking a similar question, “How the hell do they follow this?” I’ve also been struggling to put my thoughts on it into words until now.

Some albums grab your attention for big riffs or catchy choruses, some for catching a mood or a moment in time, and some for excellent songwriting. Some albums are instant favourites, some take some time to filter through. Most albums you can give a first listen to while you’re busy doing other things. But once in a while an album comes along that isn’t really any of those things but is so cleverly put together it makes you stop what you’re doing and really listen. This is one of those albums.

Cheer Up stopped me in my tracks. From the first little chuckle of the intro to ‘In Reverse’ to the last of the punched out guitar chords of ‘Paper Town’ I stopped rattling on the laptop keyboard to listen to every word, every harmony, every background vocal and guitar noise, absolutely enthralled.

Every track is a cleverly constructed piece of artwork. This is like wandering in to a small, local art gallery just to get out of the rain and then losing track of time as each piece pulls you farther in. The basic construction of these songs is quite simple but there is so much going on in each track it’s hard not to keep going back again and again, still finding something new in each every time. Whether it’s a clever lyric, the interesting background vocal or intelligent guitar work, there is something intriguing in every track. There are also some real earworms here. The chorus of ‘Rocket’ will be stuck in your head forever.

The album starts off with that little chuckle and I have to admit that the opening track ‘In Reverse’ really is like that first quirky piece of art in the gallery, making me simultaneously think twice about carrying on and wanting to explore a bit deeper. I hesitate to use the word quirky because there is so much more to it than that.

Title track ‘Cheer Up’ is a far better indication of what the rest of the album is like. Simple but catchy guitar hooks, interesting lyrics and cleverly constructed songs. Without going into a clumsy track by track commentary, favourite tracks for me are ‘Clockwork’ with its delicate guitar and melodic chorus, the energy and clever lyric of ‘Fake News Blues’ and the quite unforgettable chorus of ‘Rocket’.

There is a real confidence and self assurance in these songs that will have you questioning the fact that it is a debut album. The fact is that it is a debut album but for the life of me I just don’t know how FCO are going to top it.

For now I will just enjoy it for the beautiful collection of musical art that it is.

Alan Vaughan
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