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The Pee Wee Fist - Flying



Boston's Pee Wee Fist are a hard to pin down bunch. The 6+ piece band deftly switches from rock to alt-country to simple singer/songwriter pieces while managing to sound like artists as diverse as Neutral Milk Hotel, Neil Young, and Versus. It's hard to say when they are at their best, but on their debut record it's even more difficult to find them doing anything all that bad. Making them stand out even more is their incorporation of unlikely instruments like the accordion, banjo and theremin into the rock setting. The results are complex yet ultra-melodic songs that are able to go in unexpected directions. The group's mastermind, Pete Fitzpatrick, has a strong enough voice to lead his band into all sorts of situations, but he also has enough common sense to go back to the poppy song structures that the band best functions in. There is a definite Elephant 6 feel to some of the music; at times things lean towards goofy Of Montreal pop, and the quiet horns that leak in from time to time have certainly been used before, but there is still something refreshing taking place. The only real flaw to the record is the occasional cheesy feel that leaps into one or two of the more unadorned selections, but even then the band tends to save the day with some classy harmonies or out of the ordinary instrumentation. Flying is a promising first record for any group, and with the wealth of ideas that are presented on this record Pee Wee Fist deserves to stir up some excitement. (Peter D'Angelo)


Altar Native

Flying is like being in the head of a schizophrenic. One minute you have your shit straight, the next minute you've spiraled off into oblivion. I suspect this is what it is like to be in Hunter S. Thompson's brain. I hate bands like these, but oddly I was drawn into The Pee Wee Fist's spastic style. The unpredictability of Flying is what gives it its charm. One minute the band is teetering on the edge of complete navel gazing, the next it is playing a by-the-numbers rock tune. One of the best songs on the album is "Chinese Star in Metal Shop," a Weezer-esque tune about the old suburban hobby of making weapons in shop class, among other things besides bongs. While the vocals and music are not spectacular, everything seems to fit and the use of the accordion is genius. An interesting listen that will surprise you with something new each time. - Kevin Maurer


Splendid E-zine

I've been avoiding this album since I got it because I thought the name "The Pee Wee Fist" was totally stupid. Once again, my judgmental nature got the better of me. Full of resonating, heavy pop, Flying is the Kimchee Records debut from this unfortunately-named band. There's a nice texture to these songs, kind of like a Veluxe blanket -- you know, sort of velvety, but a little thicker, with greater friction.

The album comes out like gangbusters with the opening track, "The Seeds of the Day, Parts 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3". It's a bold move to open your album with an eight-minute epic, but the song's variety and poppy energy saves it from being tedious. I really like Peter Fitzpatrick's vocals here; there's something almost post-punk about them, yet they're shrouded in brooding pop. It's a pretty neat trick.

What really makes Flying click is the fact that The Pee Wee Fist never quite do what you expect them to do. A nice, melodic vocal line suddenly pitches up an octave. A drifting tune will spontaneously syncopate. A simple, seemingly straightforward song will open up into a three-part harmony, complete with...wait, is that a tuba!? They do all of this without jarring you out of your reverie; the quirks always come as pleasant surprises.

I wish the CD booklet included the lyrics to "Pedicure". It's so upbeat, and at times crazy, that I find it difficult to believe they're really singing about feet with such joy and brassy (as in trumpet) abandon.

The Pee Wee Fist are regularly compared to Elephant Six collective bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. Those bands are giant question marks in my musical knowledge, so I don't know if it's an accurate comparison -- but if it is, The Pee Wee Fist has encouraged me to check them out.

-- Alex


24-7 Reviews

The inlay cover of Pee Wee Fist's new album has scratchy notes of the lyrics, but the focus is more on the music. They are celebrating something. What? I don't know. Life? Music itself, perhaps? I don't know, but the music is as laid back as the attitude of the band. They seem to be doing this for fun and any and all admiration or recognition is pure subsidy. The list of who plays what in the group looks more like a resume than a section of CD liner notes. The off again/on again nine-piece plays no less than three instruments a piece. Peter Fitzpatrick, the maverick who started the whole thing, plays everything from the guitar to the trumpet to the euphonium. Dennis Saulnier (brother of Anna Johansson: bassist and singer) plays the drums and the glockenspiel. How many people can make that claim?

Pee Wee Fist is smooth sailing. It's simple and it meanders--the perfect music to listen to in the car on a sunny day when you have no particular place to go. (Sean)


Delusions of Adequacy

File Under: Countryish indie rock

RIYL: Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement, Guided By Voices, The Flaming Lips

You can accept a bit of the unique nature of the oddly named Pee Wee Fist simply by understanding that the current line-up of the project consists of a full-time accordianist and theraminist. And Pete Fitzpatrick, the founder and guiding force behind the band, is known to break out the euphonium on a moment's notice.

To get a grasp of the music contained on this, the band's official debut full-length, you really have to listen to the whole album. Because there's a definite mix of styles and influences that run the gambit from out-right rockers to countrified numbers, all with a consistent indie rock sensibility to tie them together. Most of the songs are upbeat and contain Fitzpatrick's unique lyrics. The closest comparisons would be, perhaps, to mix Neil Young with The Flaming Lips and Neutral Milk Hotel, and that's a scary combination.

The album gets off to something of a momentus start with "The Seeds of the Day," a song with three unique movements. Right off the bat you realize that The Pee Wee Fist are taking their music seriously, as this 8+ minute song runs the gambit from rocking harmonica solos to up-tempo country-style rock. "Beauty & The Beats," on the other hand, is softer and more folk style, with some fantastic piano that shows off the versatility of the band. To make matters more confusing, "Let's Go (Deja Blue)" reminds me, perhaps, of American Music Club, and it's perhaps one of the band's most momentus songs with a kind of uplifting feel to it, and "Pedicure," with it's high-pitched vocals and lines like "everybody's got a foot inside their mouth / nobody takes the time to kiss it" is vintage Flaming Lips-style pop/rock.

We continue with an ecclectic mix of styles and sounds, which isn't too surprising, seeing as how the band recorded the songs over several years in several different locations and even a varying line-up. "Golden Voices" is a Johnny Cash style folk ballad, while "Ghost of a Plastic Bag" picks up the pace again with a light-hearted indie rock number. "Chinese Star in Metal Shop" reminds me of a more rocking Pavement track, while "Hi, Hi" starts off quiet and moody yet becomes a more raging guitar song with Neil Young-like washes of feedback. One of my favorite songs, "Mnemonic Hordes" is a slightly alt-country track that has the most perfect flow and feel you'd hardly notice it's country-ish leanings. "Falling Out" is a rambling, quiet, 9+ minute track, while the title track ends with a quiet, slightly distortion-laden track that uses the piano again to good effect.

I think it's precisely the varried influences here that make me like this album so much. Or perhaps it's Fitzpatrick's songwriting. Because each of these songs is strong and moving in their own way. From the folkier stuff to the more country stuff to the outright indie rock tunes, The Pee Wee Fist have a firm grasp on what they're doing. One album of one of those styles just wouldn't be enough.

- Jeff


Lost at Sea

There are ways to get your album reviewed in a very timely manner. For instance, when an album with tasteful, clean artwork is presented, I generally listen to it right away. Presentation and first impressions have a way of running the entire world, not just the music industry. Likewise, there are ways to ensure that it takes a while for your record to reach the top of the queue. For instance, naming your band the Pee Wee Fist and entitling your first album "Flying" are ways to avoid an immediate response.

Fortunately for Pete Fitzpatrick, his poor decision making skills were unable to infiltrate the songwriting and recording process for his band's first production full-length. While the Pee Wee Fist may never prove to be a respectable band name, Flying is an apt title for this twelve track collection. Rarely blinking an eye between full-blooded gallop ("The Seeds of the Day") and laggard stroll ("Beauty & the Beats"), Fitzpatrick and his band mates - Michael McLaughlin, Anna Johansson, Jon Bernhardt, Andrew Plaisted, Moses Carr - employ a laundry list of lo-fi, ardent instruments (everything from guitar to accordion to theremin) to create an engulfing sound that is as much Of Montreal as it is Wilco. Comparisons to everything from Palace to Neutral Milk Hotel to Neil Young to Wolfie have been tossed at this band and, to a certain degree, they are all warranted. Tracks like "Pedicure" provide standard pop structures soaked in fuzz and anchored by vocal hooks. The ensuing "Golden Voices" is a bit obvious in its way of unraveling acoustically over samples, but is still well founded. "Mnemonic Hordes" is perhaps most indicative of the group's true talent, combining influences from their various musical pasts into a potent mixture.

As you all know, we receive countless debut records here at LAS, most of them by artists that we never hear from again, which is a good thing, for the most part. I sincerely hope that the Pee Wee Fist makes a second appearance in our review list, and I hope it is as an enjoyable listen as the first round has been.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth


The Pee Wee Fist sound like Neutral Milk Hotel re-interpreting the Who. No, wait. They sound like the Flaming Lips via Yo La Tengo. Hold on. Will Oldham in a blender with...

They're eclectic, is what I'm getting at. The Pee Wee Fist's debut album, Flying, manages to be both artsy and primal at the same time, mixing looped guitars and tape hiss with poppy songwriting and poetic lyrics.

There's a tangible element of comfort on Flying's twelve tracks, a feeling like the musicians on the record grabbed whatever instrument was at hand as the tape rolled and just winged it. "Ghosts of a Plastic Bag" features the typical drum/bass/guitar combo accompanied by John Manning's tuba and Michael McLaughlin's accordion.

The 3-part "The Seeds of the Day" is like the final two minutes of "Baba O'Riley" stretched out on a rack and gone haywire. The song builds to a drone, explodes and retracts moments later, slipping into an off-kilter mathematical beat. The song continues to morph, finally segueing into a coda of fuzzy guitars.

Whew. Complex songs, great guitar playing and lyrical gems like "Pile up what you're rooted in / Why delay? Feng Shui it away." There's plenty on the Pee Wee Fist's album for a music lover to digest, especially if you're a fan of the bands mentioned above. (Dylan Gaughan)


Comes With a Smile

I'm sure it will have escaped the attention of most, but Peter Fitzpatrick is currently one of the coolest people on the planet. The latest recruit to the increasingly excellent Clem Snide, this is the man that has broadened their sonic scope with his multi-instrumental talents, to great effect on The Ghost of Fashion. And live, he's so sickeningly cool, swapping instruments at will to add a sublime extra texture, dressed in cool '50's chic, with a cool fucking haircut, an air of detached knowing, and, if I was of homosexual inclination, a face I'd want to lick like a lolly. Besides the Snide, he also has business with Helium's Mary Timony in a synth-pop outfit called Green 4, and runs an avant-garde klezmer ensemble named Naftule's Dream. Also - wouldn't you know it - his nickname is 'Sweet P' - the coolest street name of them all. One of life's fortunates, he's got the lot, and in his other other other other band, The Pee Wee Fist, he has sneakingly delivered one of the great albums of 2001. Bastard. Flying is inventive, moving and intelligent leftfield guitar pop with few faults. One criticism I would level, however, is that some tracks wind out for just that pee wee bit too long, threatening the nullification of the wonder that has preceded the moment where indulgence begins to stir. But I can forgive Fitzpatrick and his band these gorgings, because the admiration earned for songwriting brilliance outweighs any negative. Flying opens in outrageous fashion, with the ludicrous and joyous "The Seeds of The Day-1.1, 1.2 & 1.3." Fractured guitar and random percussion provide a loose, psychedelic bed for Fitzpatrick's vocal, before drums hammer in, and a vocal mantra kicks off. This collapses into clumsy Gallic jazz-punk, (Pazz? Junk?) then surges into a strident rock beat underpinned by accordion, the phrase "Blow away the seeds of the day" now delivered in glorious harmonies. Then, quel surprise, the Pantera guitars crunch in, and after a bit of posturing, disentangle themselves to go off on individual noodling solos, leading into the theremin solo, more harmonies, and guitar strum to end. And.relax. So, that's the first track. "Beauty and the Beats" is up next, and is a country song of true grace and fragility. Concerning the search for the definition of beauty to each of us, the lyrics are wondrous. The album's lyric sheet is an avalanche of wordplay, skeewif imagery, intelligent narrative and deep emotions: Look at this - "Oh to find it on the highway / oh to find it in a box / in the plummeting hail / or the rising stocks," the possibility of beauty in travel, discovery, nature and money - or cars/driving, history, weather and power - all in 22 words. Don't know about you, but I always find such thoughtful observations impressive. There is a trove of lyrical skill to mull over throughout, but it is best to dive in yourself, rather than hang on my particular interpretation; I can't resist revealing this though, from the Pavement-y shamble-pop of "Pedicure": "Everybody's got a foot inside his mouth / salty toes can take a lickin' / who'd have thought that we could be so flexible? / There's no surprise it tastes like chicken." There's so much to thrill here, like the spine-tingling, fuzzy slow-burning "Let's Go (Deja Blue)"; the stoically lo-fi Jeffrey Lewis-esque "Golden Voices," resplendent with muted feedback and excruciating nails-down-a-blackboard string scrapings. The Go-Betweens jam with Mano Negra at a Faust convention on the brilliant "Ghost of a Plastic Bag"; "Full Stride" is early Prefab Sprout with a teenage Ben Folds on vocals, and is how I feel I Am Kloot or South should sound. Besides which, it namechecks firehose. Part Lou Barlow, part Hendrix, "Hi Hi" is pure genius; "Mnemonic Hordes" is the finest country-pop jaunt of the year, and noted for the liberating sci-fi synths and cheesy organ, and the startling 8 minutes plus of "Falling Out" sees Howe Gelb partying hard with Bill Callahan. Only one track fails; "Chinese Star in Metal Shop" is flaccid college rock, redeemed slightly by elements of the nostalgic lyric. This aside, it's a great album, and Fitzpatrick currently has the air of a potential Todd Rundgren about him, where projects will cascade from him, all the girls will want him, and the musos will worship him. Bastard.

Tom Sheriff


Milk Magazine

Tendencies toward clever-dick "diversity" held in check by engagingly offbeat, noisy melodiousness. Unique: in a positive way, for once.


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