One Track Mind: A Fragile Tomorrow, “Kernersville” (2012)

Shattering, yet redemptively propulsive, A Fragile Tomorrow’s lovelorn new single “Kernersville” probably betrays its 1980s influences right there in the liner notes. There’s Mitch Easter, legendary early R.E.M. producer and leader of Let’s Active. And Vicki and Debbi Peterson from the Bangles.

But “Kernersville,” though it certainly makes good use of those prodigious talents, still remains firmly in the grasp of the talented South Carolina band A Fragile Tomorrow, led by singer Sean Kelly and also including bassist Shaun Rhoades, drummer Dominic Kelly and guitarist Brendan Kelly. Their more famous sidemen are just that.

The track (which you can download here) opens with a zippy little old-school riff, like something that would have come crackling out of a college radio station 30 years ago, and stays right in that Reagan-era groove. Vocals layer in, like coats of shimmering paint on the chorus, and that works in brilliant juxtaposition with the sad resignation of the lyric.

Even when “Kernersville” settles into a brief moment of reverie — recalling the first verse, Sean sings quietly: “I keep picturing your face” — it’s not for long. Just like that, A Fragile Tomorrow is stamping its way through the chorus, one that’s already begun to sound like a sad avoidance of the obvious: “I don’t know much about heartbreak”?

“Kernersville” — the first single from Be Nice Be Careful, due via Piewillie Records in January 2013 — is, in fact, streaked through with it — and that sweet sorrow is so very beautiful.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.