By Mark Jenkins
Friday, March 29, 2013
Fol Chen calls the style of its third album, “The False Alarms,” “opera house.” The term was originally coined by Sex Pistols guru Malcolm McLaren for his mashup of disco and Puccini, which has little to do with Fol Chen. Musically, the L.A. electro-pop group doesn’t draw from Italian opera, but it does have a taste for the theatrical in both its music and imagery.
Fol Chen (the meaning of the name is closely held) began as a showcase for producers Samuel Bing (who wrote most of the band’s early material) and Julian Wass. “The False Alarms” marks the emergence of Sinosa Loa, who joined Fol Chen for the second album. Loa has become the group’s principal singer and wrote these 10 songs with Bing.
Loa’s vocals are electronically treated and overlapped, and framed by industrial-style percussion and effects, so the gist of this song cycle is another mystery. It’s supposedly about uncertainty and loss, among other unsettling topics, and there are many brooding art-rock passages. But the album’s standouts -- the arias, perhaps -- are such chirpy numbers as “Doubles” and “A Tourist Town.” The latter track, with its sitar-like hook and “I got drunk again” refrain, seems designed to raze the walls of an opera house.