Album reviews – Fruit: ‘Hark At Her’ (“this bold, brash, noisy, fun, emotional tour‑de‑force”)

2 Feb

Fruit: 'Hark At Her'

Fruit: ‘Hark At Her’

Fruit is Patrick Fitzgerald (and friends). He, for those who care about such things, was the vocalist with the sadly underrated ‑ and sadly no more ‑ Kitchens Of Distinction, a trio of rather serious‑looking young men producing doomily arty, swirling guitar rock. (Digression: while Fruit is a terrific ‑ and more fun ‑ project, the Kitchens shouldn’t have been mercilessly dropped by One Little Indian. So much for the eclectic, egalitarian indies! OLI should get it together ‑ they dumped both No‑Man and Kitchens, unwilling to give them a little leeway to produce their own music. Basically, they now just exist to market Bjork. Idiots.)

So, as Kitchens Of Distinction… er… got out of the kitchen, Patrick set about producing this bold, brash, noisy, fun, emotional tour‑de‑force of (mainly) gay life. From the start, he was working against the prevailing musical current ‑ Fruit’s debut single, an evocation of gay life and death called The Queen Of Old Compton Street (not included here) came out in the same week as Oasis’ Live Forever. Such irony made me laugh until I choked.

Let Patrick educate you. Proceedings open with What Is Fruit?, sounding like one of The Fall’s chuck‑it‑all‑in‑the‑mix takes on crunchy guitar dance‑pop, but with a brighter sensibility from the start. Exotic voices and foreign tongues fly thick and fast with their interjections to that essential question. “Films, actors, addicts, vermin, / Friends, filth ‑ everyone I’ve ever met” ‑ out of the ghetto and all around us ‑ “not forgetting the two coppers in the kitchen.” This is gleeful and exuberant. Hell, the bright pop mix is even down to Pascal Gabriel.


 
Pleasure Yourself continues the fun, with much the same thrilling electric‑guitars‑plus‑electronics backing, as Patrick cheekily suggests: “Take my pleasure seriously / So come on baby and pleasure me / While you pleasure yourself.” Its wonderful directness can’t be avoided, and the same is true of Sally’s Car. To a ‘Diamond Dogs’‑era Bowie glam feel, Patrick remembers: “In Sally’s car we go too far… / lying on the back seat watching the meteors from Mars.” No, if you want subtlety, forget it. Then they drive away ‑ “put the roof down, turn the noise up.” Oh, come on! It’s corny, yes, but whoever your sexual partner, you’ve known that feeling.



 
But hey, if this is all getting too happy for you…

Starring Relationship ‑ featuring yet more dialogue, partly from Lush’s gleeful harpy Miki Berenyi ‑ is Patrick sounding as frankly pissed off as you always wish you could get when, at a party, you’ve got trapped into a corner with some misery of a person sitting on the stairs, bending your ear. “Don’t want to hear about your fucking relationship / The way you feel when he doesn’t think of you… / Just deal with it!” Patrick has got every whinging item of complaint in such talk nailed down and, to a soundtrack of suitably scratchy, edgy guitars, he’s spitting them all back at you ‑ with added bile.


 
The two central tracks of the album are not only the most musically dissimilar, but display the two sides of the gay experience. Prowler features the star‑shooting, to die‑for harmonies of David McAlmont: to a smooth late‑night soundtrack of lush acoustic guitars, husky organ and reedy trumpet, he and Patrick celebrate freedom and the opportunity to practice one’s desires without fear. It’s glorious. Through the music the sound of thunder breaks into the sweaty heat of a summer’s night outdoors. Such freedom is Shangri‑La…


 
The other side of the coin is Leather Jacket. To a Tricky‑ish soundtrack of kettle drums and nervously plucked guitars, Patrick relates an absolutely terrifying tale of gay‑bashing on the street. With increasing terror, he repeats the central line: “I hear the zip of his leather jacket / See the flashing of gun metallic…” The lads want to bash him up to impress their girlfriends, while he desperately prays to be spirited away by clicking his Doc Martened heels three times. Last time now: “I hear the…” Gunshot.


 
But there’s a reprise. Over the returning kettle drums, a certain Paul McGlone narrates his memories of a karate‑kicking and beating from two scum. Paul’s a survivor, though. He’s got the right idea. He wants justice ‑ to identify them in a police station‑‑and simple revenge ‑ the humane solution of a bullet through their heads. What with Lorne Burrell’s lethally camp, RuPaul‑ish delivery of a threat to kick the bully boys into paradise, the message is clear: the survivors are waiting…


 
The final track, Scatter Me, ends with death. Though these funerals of young men, AIDS victims, are now all too common – the same songs are sung, the same careful sideways looks to see who’s noticeably losing weight ‑ the proud defiance is still there: “The dead are so loud / Their monuments are so proud.” As he looks up to heaven and sees all the souls gazing down, Patrick’s naked, almost scarred voice surges with power and defiant strength, over a bare acoustic guitar and water effects.


 
So many voices and so many words, sung and spoken, populate this album that, at times, the music does rather take second place and search for a personality among many differing styles. But what the hell, this is such an amazing walk through relationships and experiences that such a criticism is unimportant for a fun project, a masterful achievement and a life‑defining catalogue of all those highs and lows.

(review by Vaughan Simons)

Fruit: ‘Hark At Her’
One Little Indian Records, TPLP75CD (5 016958 029524)
CD-only album
Released: January 1996

Get it from:
(2018 update) Out-of-print – best obtained second-hand, or downloaded from Bleep.

Fruit (Patrick Fitzgerald/Stephen Hero) online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube

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