A Fragile Tomorrow continues to explore 1980s indie-rock sounds here, even as they steadily build upon those core influences.
Fragile’s most recent album underscored their abiding passion for jangle-pop, even featuring turns by the dBs’ Peter Holsapple and the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray. This new track, however, swerves into edgier fare — as the South Carolina-based group not only covers a classic Let’s Active song, but do so with its original songwriter Mitch Easter producing.
Yet this is no mirror image. Far from it, in fact. The Let’s Active version launches with a riffy turn on the Rickenbacker, while Fragile’s new take (available for download at A Fragile Tomorrow’s Web site) settles into a friendly, invitingly pastoral feel.
Fans will remember, too, that as the ’84 version spun, it seemed to move from jerky bubblegum into enigmatic shadow — recalling, in that last respect, R.E.M.’s Murmur and Reckoning, both of which Easter produced from the garage at his folks’ house. How would A Fragile Tomorrow handle this interesting turn? After all, Let’s Active was never the doomy downer that R.E.M. could be, as Easter and Co. blended in bright shards of psychedelia and a playful, deeply involving innocence.
It remains this complex amalgam that, quite frankly, A Fragile Tomorrow doesn’t begin to approximate. Thing is, I don’t think they’re trying to. Instead, they find a more direct and emotional center point — raw and somehow a little more real. Danielle Howle, Fragile’s producer for 2010′s Tripping Over Nothing, replaces Let’s Active bassist and vocal foil Faye Hunter, but remains further back in the mix as Sean Kelly explores the song’s ineffable mutterings. Then, A Fragile Tomorrow simply plugs in and begins raging for a time, tearing a hole in the middle of power-pop perfectness of “Waters Part.”
The results work somehow both as tribute and as a chest-splashing update. “To tie it all together,” as “Waters Part” so helpfully reminds, “is the work of alchemists.” And good ones, at that.