The Fever Machine are kind of badass. They’re also bold, brash, and a bit in your face. So is their debut album, Living in Oblivion.
First off, I’ve seen these guys play about a hundred times. And that’s a conservative estimate. Seriously, The Fever Machine is out there gigging. Considering how long they’ve been together (since early 2010) it’s amazing they’ve even had time to release an album based on how much time they actually spend just playing shows and the only possible reason you haven’t seen them yet is because you’ve never left your flat. But when you finally will see them live, you’ll realize that they’re tight, and concise, and it seems like they’ve been playing together a lot longer. Well actually, in a way, they have. The Fever Machine is made up of Dan Shapiro (vox, guitars), and Fabien Barbet (bass, backing vocals), who used to be one half of The Rogue Transmission, a well-regarded Shanghai band of days gone by. But you know, bands break up, people move away, blah blah blah, and Dan, and Fabien ended up joined with Miguel Bustamante on drums, and The Fever Machine was born. So when you hear them play, they’re good and they know their stuff. They sound strong. And their album is a good representation of this.
The Fever Machine is fully encompassed in rock. Big, hard, guitar-driven rock. Loud, and urgent but overall, pretty melodic with some catchy hooks, keeping them out of the heavy metal category. They’re self-described as playing “infectious, big-riff rock,” and I totally agree—it is infectious. It’s hard not to listen to the album and start moving around, air-drumming along. The sounds on the album are nearly all within hard rock: the guitars, the drums and the overall feeling of hurry in the music makes everything bigger, faster and fuller. The first song on the album, “Hell Yeah” pretty much sums it up when Dan declares, “Hell yeah, we’re living in oblivion,” over hard guitar riffs. Other standouts include “Dance with Deviance”, and “Out of Touch”, two songs with underscores of punk and dance rock. But then there’s also “Synesthesia”, which is definitely more psychedelic, with a heavy drone sound under it. There’s an interesting mix going on.
The Fever Machine certainly fills a gap in the Shanghai music scene as there isn’t another band currently gigging that really sounds like them. The songs are well-composed, well-executed and satisfying (mostly), but I have to admit, I was reaching out for just a little bit more: maybe a small bit of innovation in their sound that would set them apart not only in Shanghai (which they already are), but on a larger level as well. But honestly, it almost seems like splitting hairs because overall, Living in Oblivion is a powerful, listenable album with model hard rock songs, and sometimes, that’s just exactly what you want to listen to. Their album proves that The Fever Machine knows what they’re doing and being as how they’re one of my favorite bands, I, for one, certainly hope that they keep doing it.
And come out from your flat (the weather’s lovely!) and catch The Fever Machine next at Yuyintang on May 5th for the Layabozi 4th Anniversary party.