Last Parade as reviewed in Phantom TollboothNice ideas in decent packaging, but that doesn’t hide the dodgy vocals


Time: 6 tracks / 24 minutes

This EP makes me think of a man trying to look over a high wall, hoping to see something great and imagining what might be there, but who is not quite tall enough to see over. Patrick Fischer (who is Last Parade) has vision and ideas, and clearly wants to achieve good things, but the execution falls frustratingly short.

“Shape of her Demise” is a three-beat piece that starts like nu-oompah. It seems to want to be the Decemberists in the way that it takes a charming, folky song and lays a few twists on it, such as stabs of plucked strings and dense blocks of fuzzed guitar. Fischer overlays two sets of tunes at the end of this and “Angel of Adversity,” adding phasing to the latter, but letting the former go on a bit too long.

Despite his efforts at engendering aural interest early on, it might be the less cluttered songs, such as “Wishful Thinking” that work best, livened only be a few discreetly placed ‘60s-styled “bah-bah-bah”s and some Procol Harum organ.

Where Fischer scores is his lyrics, which sketch scenes with almost surreal touches, and lightly enough for the listener to imagine the people involved and what their relationships are. A title like “Shape of her Demise” is always going to lead to an intriguing idea, as is “Caroline Concrete (She’s Stuck Inside the Beltline)” about a manipulative woman, who wants her man to “lead a life of suppressed misery” and uses “flashes of white” to blind him to her true intentions.

“Words of Advice” was based on a real piece of wisdom that his father gave him, when he didn’t know whether or not to risk playing his music in a bigger city. “Son, sometimes you’ve got to jump into the cold water,” his father told him, and the song grew from there.

Unfortunately, Fischer’s ability to sing does not match his lyrical skill, making the disc often sound quite amateur. His voice can sound endearingly warm when singing strongly, but often he seems to be a little off-pitch or strain for notes that are just beyond him. Maybe this will appeal to those who enjoy the honesty of lo-fi style.

When it works, he does new-old-fashioned a bit like Duke Special and seems to share a similarly creative off-kilter approach. Music is not best when ruled by money, but if the talent is there in the first place, a bit of funding can make a real difference. I’d like to hear this after an independent producer and stronger mixing engineer cleaned it up.

Derek Walker