Alt-rockers Fiasco return with an aggressive example of wit 

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click to enlarge Fiasco fizzled out two years ago

Ruta Smith

Fiasco fizzled out two years ago

Fiasco's return was the light at the end of the tunnel for Scott Frank. In the two years after his band fizzled out, the singer and guitarist battled drug addiction, alcoholism, his engagement broke off, and one of his best friends passed away. In almost every way, it left him desiring an outlet for the agonies he suffered in 2016 and 2017. "I was like 'I need this,'" says Frank when discussing why Fiasco was revived. "A) I missed Fiasco; I missed the whole sound we had. And B) I'm trying to get over this and I need something."

As artists in any field will eagerly attest — pain will force anyone to embrace their craft. "It was an extremely therapeutic thing," says Frank. The EP, titled Example of Wit, leans into the punches taken and rolls with them. Instead of 20 minutes of wound-licking and self-pity, Frank takes the bad times and uses them as a lyrical basis for bright, melodic, occasionally dissonant rock songs. Lyrically, he's morose and meditative, while musically, he's dancing in the rain.

"In a lot of the lyrics on the songs, you can hear internal struggles, and perspectives of other people seeing me like that and me trying to remedy something I'm struggling with myself," says Frank. "With the music, you can definitely hear the aggression and the fierceness behind it."

The EP comes out of the gate with the pedal on the floor and doesn't let up until the race is over. "Galavant" hits with a noisy punch and a raspy scream, both expressing coarse emotion, as the song develops into a pained goodbye to his fiancé and his friend. "[The song is about] how you can take things for granted while you're in the moment and be content with going through the motions — being regretful for how you spent your time," says Frank.

"The Sound it Makes" keeps the energy loudly rolling through gnarled stop-and-starts. The music's texture throughout Example of Wit is concentrated on the guitar. Dissonant melodies and the occasional six-string overdub construct a chanting static that brings the EP to life.

Alongside Frank is drummer Andrew Barnes of Florida Man and Drunk Couples. Barnes was the bass player at the end of Fiasco's initial run, and quickly rejoined the band when Frank put it back together, playing drums and bass on the EP. "I was there when Scott had a seizure, and when you see one of your best friends go through that, you'd do anything to help them," says Barnes. "I knew Scott needed an outlet when he cut the boozing and rearranged some things in his life."

Barnes' post-hardcore and punk background is an integral element on Example of Wit. "We could have easily overdubbed a bunch of extra guitar parts and keys and stuff, but it just felt right to just keep it kind of raw," says Barnes. "It just sounds like the two of us playing."

"We were like, 'We want to do something that's fast and hits you right away.' With our older stuff, we had a lot of atmospheric interludes and stuff," says Frank. "The songs were still really fast and punchy, but we cut out a lot of the dissonant sounds."

Lead single "Jeff Goldblum Goes for the Gold" is one of the slower and more intense points on the album. The song builds a hill of weighty emotion on top of a classic college-rock radio riff. Over the course of the song, Frank and Barnes climb the slope with escalating volume, increasingly fierce musicality, and vocals. It's a low point for Frank, as he recounts one of the last arguments he had with his fiancé before their breakup, but a high for Example of Wit.

"It almost feels like something just hitting its breaking point," says Barnes on the sound of the album. "Like you pull the rubber band too far," adds Frank.

Sonically, it's about to snap, but not in a negative way. Example of Wit is catharsis in song, a living purge of everything that held Frank down for two years. There's no joy in what produced the album, but there's positivity to be found in the recesses of its six songs. The fact that its songwriter turned his trials into something is hope-inspiring enough.

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