There comes a point in any experimental act's career where, after breaking so many different molds over the course of several albums, they're ultimately forced to break their own. It's a risky move, especially when traversing into more crowd-friendly territory, as that band has to first put their integrity on the table and run the risk of alienating their die-hard fan base. Yet Fever Forms is an encyclopedic example of a band rising above the trappings of its history and expanding their sphere of influence to create something altogether new and instantly engaging, all while maintaining their artistic affluence.
By now, the Austin-based band seems to have done it all. Fever Forms will be their fifth studio album to date, in addition to a slew of EPs and some short film scores. Since their last studio album, 2010’s Hexadecagon, The Octopus Project has released a pair of 2012 soundtracks for the movie "Kid-Thing" and the iOS game "Thunderbeam", played a slew of festivals and toured as an opener for acts like Devo, Man or Astro-Man?, and Explosions in the Sky. They even served as a backing band for Devo at the 2010 Moogfest, filling the gap for a then-injured Bob Mothersbaugh.
Those familiar with The Octopus Project’s back-catalogue, please take a moment to click above and listen to lead-off single “Whitby.” It should be instantaneously clear we’re dealing with an entirely different animal here. While it isn’t par for the Fever Forms course (it’s definitely the most cookie-cutter pop song the band has put out), it provides a clear illustration of just what the band is capable of hook-wise.
Much of Fever Forms draws reference to the glory days of dance punk, short-lived though they were, and begets likeness to those who, at the top of their game, stood out as one of the genre’s best, The Faint. Namely, they take cues from their seminal 1999 album Blank Wave Arcade and its rallying, hooky vocal lines guided by aggressive rock rhythms and gruesomely distorted synthesizers. Take the enthusiasm, aggression and charm of track seven’s “Mmkit.” Its extended instrumental intro with synchronized handclaps, a statically jovial drum beat, rousing synth build-ups and a downright gritty bassline serves as a pleasant reminder of the sort of rallying aggression of which dance-punk solid acts were capable.
Of course, there are still several pieces on Fever Forms that adhere to The Octopus Project’s prior days of instrumental chaotics and arpeggiated cycling synth hooks. Tracks like “Pyramid Kosmos,” “Choi Sighs” and “Deep Spice” all capture the band’s namesake complexity. But where instrumental numbers were once the crux of The Octopus Project’s being, on Fever Forms they act as transitional elements of a grander movement, dividing substantive stylistic changes that might otherwise be a tad too jarringly different side-by-side.
Time and time again, one sees a band undergo the ultimate test – can they pep it up a notch? By a wide margin, the result of most of these transitions is met with pitchforks-in-hand as the huddled masses of true fans chant “sellout” in various comment threads, regardless of any financial accommodations involved in the shift. For Fever Forms, The Octopus Project has done the unthinkable and managed to re-envision themselves in a manner not altogether alienating, holding tight to their experimental pop genre tag and the sense of adventure that comes with it.
1. The Falls
2. Pyramid Kosmos
4. Death Graduates
5. The Mythical E.L.C.
8. The Man With the Golden Hand
10. Choi Sighs
11. Deep Spice