The Fool’s Agenda – From the Underground Review
The 5-piece rock band The Fool’s Agenda released their debut EP “From the Underground” on October 31, 2019. From Salem, Massachusetts, the band was formed in June 2019, and it seems that they swiftly navigated their way around songwriting and completed an EP in just 5 months, with the debut single “When the Sun Shines” being released on September 13, 2019. The band, which define themselves as “a vintage-inspired fusion of rock and blues, with a healthy dose of fantasy”, consist of college students whose ages differ between 21-23. The theme of their debut EP is moving on from past mistakes or victories and realizing the effects of past experiences on oneself. They handle this heavy subject in 4 songs and a total of 14 minutes. I must say that the short length disappointed us as we were left wanting more of the classic rock-influenced instrumentals and especially Rhiannon Callahan’s beautiful voice. That said, “From the Underground” is a good teaser for what is to come from the band’s future releases.
Rhiannon Callahan – lead vocals
Conor Reinold – lead guitar
Maddie Roth – rhythm guitar, keys, and vocals
Jon Gray – bass and vocals
Kamryn Bode – percussion
Recorded at Small Pond Studios, mixed and produced by Ryan Blaney.
1. When the Sun Shines (2:48)
The first song on the record is heavily connected to the over-arching theme of change. This can clearly be seen in the chorus: “When the sun shines / Change is on the rise”. This theme is developed using lines such as “Distant music calls through the air / Pouring through the cracks of fear,” which convey the idea of not being able to move on. The “music” represents the peace that moving on will bring about.
The song is mostly built on top of a chord progression by the rhythm guitarist, Maddie Roth. The guitar plays by itself in the beginning, and the song progresses as the band members add their own unique parts to it. The lead guitarist Conor Reinold plays a line similar to the vocal melody of the verses in the beginning. When the vocals enter, Rhiannon Callahan takes over this main melody and the lead guitar serves as an embellishment for her bright and unique tone. At the 1:50 mark, a new 4/4 riff enters, with a 3-3-2 subdivision. The lyrics at that point are “I hear you call me back,” signaling the chorus once again. The song ends at a very climactic point. If you play the first verse and last chorus back to back, you can definitely hear the rising action.
2. Stardust (3:24)
The third song of the EP starts with a simple guitar motif that will be played throughout the song. Then the synth and vocals come in, outlying the 3 chords of the verse of. After that, the drums kick in, giving the song the groove that makes us stay with the story that they’re telling. We get to hear the verse again with the added organs and back vocals. The way that Rhiannon sings the vocals reminds a lot of the way that Annie Haslam sang with Renaissance-they both sang as if they were telling a tale of a fantastic place. The ghost note touches of the drums and the mystical synth sounds give this chill and fresh sound to the song. The song feels complete with the little reverb-guitar solo in between the verses. The track’s theme resolve on the general theme of the EP, which is the way that your past/experiences grow you.
The story is told by the first-person viewpoint, where the author has lost the woman she loved and whining for her comeback. She is the beloved one that everyone is after. Even if this woman has “slipped through” her fingers, the song tries to give the message that we shouldn’t keep looking back-wanting to go back to those days that we miss. Instead, we should embrace the experiences and passed time and see how it grew us as a person, which is the most important thing after all.
“Daughter of the woods Sunkissed and star-eyed I still see her mind Hiding beyond the clouds”
The song has a positive atmosphere and carries this signature mellow rocky sound of the TFA, which helps them to set the themes up that they want us to hear.
3. Whispers (3:13)
The third track from the EP, “Whispers”, mainly revolves around a four-chord progression which, like the name suggests, almost feels like a tenuous whisper (when the drums and vocals enter) that even though is sometimes barely heard, can still be a crucial element that gives the song the feeling of unison and familiarity.
Having said that, the first cycle of this progression is actually without the drums and vocals (but this is also true for some other songs in the EP, which may cause a sense of repetition). This isolation helps set the scene without worrying too much about an intro, and the small addition of the piano at the start just proves the extent of how much attention the band can spend on small details like this.
The thing that struck me most as I was listening has to be the daring and incisive lead vocals by Rhiannon Callahan. Her intonation blends perfectly with the attitude of the band and literally carries the lyrics to another level. Her vocals for this song is not exactly a “whisper” (yes, pun intended) but much more of a poignant shout-out to the listener. Along with the back vocals by Maddie Roth, which are from a higher pitch, the band creates the perfect opportunity for possible experiments with vocal harmony which we are definitely hoping would be explored more on later songs to expand the sound of the band.
The song follows a simple structure of verses and a chorus followed in the end by a guitar solo by Conor Reinold that, along with Kamryn Bode’s drums, carries influence from Jimmy Page while still preserving a unique and lively sense. Lyrically, the song follows a journey through a road where “the miles go on to nowhere.” The constant use of “we” as the subject shows that the listener is in this journey together with the narrator. The line “Babe I might just stay” directly reminds us of the loosely love-themed rock ballads from the 70’s while the cryptic lines in the last verse (“You wouldn’t understand”) carry the song into a darker atmosphere.
Overall, the song contains a tad of the oldies like Led Zeppelin, with a resemblance to more modern bands like Greta Van Fleet. As with their influences, The Fool’s Agenda also does a good job of bringing blues and rock together on a cozy medium that welcomes an audience of all ages.
4. Underground (5:25)
The final track of the EP, which is also the track that gives the EP its name, starts with a mysterious bassline that comes literally from “underground”. Its tone is both dark and calming which symbolizes the underground. The arpeggiated bassline creates a relaxing atmosphere for the song and catches the listener’s attention from the start. Opening the song with bass sets this song apart from the rest of the EP.
After the listener is introduced to this bassline, drums start to excite things by slowly building up. It continuously gets louder until the explosion that comes with the entrance of the guitar. By this point, you must have realized that build-up is a common factor in all songs of the EP. Unlike the other songs, the guitar just helps to create a rhythm and a dynamic for the song while the bass is creating the melodies. Then after a few repetitions, just at the right time, the song introduces the listener to another layer so that the listener would always be on their toes. The guitar bombards the listener with a fast, catchy, and interesting lick.
After the relaxing song turns into an energetic one, vocals enter singing about moving on after the death of a loved one. The first thing we are introduced to is a man on the moon that watches us and wants to see us smile. However, when the drums get hotter and the chorus hits, we learn that it is not true that he is on the moon; actually it’s the opposite, he is underground. The underground motif symbolizes that he is not “in the moon” watching us, rather he is just dead and “he won’t see [us] anyway”. After he died, he didn’t go to somewhere above to watch us, he is just dead, buried. The feelings of the narrator can be felt from her passionate voice. In this sense, the name of the EP, “From the Underground”, starts to have a new meaning: moving on after a loved one.
After the chorus, the bass starts to shine even more. Spitting more incredible lines and doing them in a such a perfect order and dose that it makes the listener feel like they have been waiting for this for their entire life. Then after the bass, it is guitar’s turn to shine. Conor Reinold performs an intense guitar solo that states the feelings of the narrator which then continues with a spooky sounding keyboard solo.
As we return to the chorus, we find ourselves singing along to a song about death. I didn’t ever imagine myself doing this. But I want more.