From the very first moment of “Black Mariah,” the leadoff track to the sophomore LP from Fischer’s Flicker titled Fornever and Never, it’s clear that bandleader Scott Fischer is up to something interesting. The grandiose piano, the nimble guitars, the pounding drums—it sounds a bit like a throwback to 70’s pop excess, but once the warm, ebullient vocals come in, Fischer’s decidedly modern pop sensibilities pull everything together in an unexpected way.
Fornever and Never evokes the stadium-sized bombast of Jukebox The Ghost, the erudite confessionalism of Quiet Company, the lighthearted earnestness of Barenaked Ladies and musical chops impressive enough to satisfy even the most eggheaded prog fan—all while remaining endlessly accessible. The Chicago native’s musical journey has included the bands Deja Voo Doo, Powderhouse and Babaganoo, which saw him crafting his witty lyrics in a humorous direction. A stint in the corporate/cover band circuit refined his compositional chops, and his return to original music with Fischer’s Flicker combined the two.
“I write a lot about what I’m going through and I’ve experienced a heck of a lot between [our previous album] Katmandon’t and Fornever and Never,” Fischer says. “The material, overall, is more challenging and I feel that, while it’s not a concept album, there is a definite journey involved. It makes perfect sense considering what I was going through and it can be very auto-biographical in that sense.”
If “Black Mariah” is an impressive opening statement, the second track—“Dead To Me”—is the unmistakable sound of a band winning you over. The track’s syncopated bounce, the doo-wop backing vocals and Fischer’s languid Midwestern drawl show a genuine love for the piano men of yore, synthesizing the affable wordplay of Billy Joel and the biting cynicism of Randy Newman with decidedly modern sounds and influences, to create something as familiar as it is fresh. But before listeners can get too comfortable, “Halo of Flies” opens with an eerie, dissonant guitar riff followed by downright pummeling guitars. The Alice Cooper-penned rocker blooms with droning bass, psychedelic guitar effects and Fischer’s voice taking on a sneer that is uncharacteristically menacing but undeniably faithful to the source.
The rest of the album continues the sonic journey. “Mrs. Rogers (& the Land of Make-Believe)” is an unnerving whirling dervish with Middle Eastern roots; “Dancin’ Girl” is a smooth R&B jam, complete with a sultry guitar solo; and the title track shows off Fischer’s by-now-undisputed pianistic prowess before exploding into a Bat Out Of Hell-styled multi-movement epic. The album’s (comparatively) gentle closer, “This Little Heart Of Mine” breaks out the acoustic guitars for a slice of yearning Americana putting Fischer’s vocal front and center.
But somehow—despite the completion of such an ambitious album, one showing a depth and range of musicality most artists will never achieve—Fischer still isn’t satisfied.
“We’re actually already halfway complete with the album that will come out next, and we’re aiming to have that one released within 12 months,” he said. “I suppose when I stop having so much happen to me in life, I’ll slow down writing but it’s honestly something I can’t stop doing. It’s part of who I am.”
However, as with all music, there is no substitute for live performance. In that spirit, Fischer’s Flicker will release Fornever and Never on August 15th at Chicago’s legendary Abbey Pub. The music is a journey. This is your invitation. Details are linked here.