Album Review: A Fragile Tomorrow – Be Nice Be Careful

As baseball boffin / bowtied blowhard George Will likes to begin especially forceful pronouncements, “It is axiomatic.” What exactly is axiomatic in this case? That big-label backing does not always equal quality music, and that indie- or self-released label product isn’t always unworthy of national attention.

I mention this not only to get in a swing at the pompous right-wing stuffed-shirt, especially since he has nothing to do with music (thank goodness), but also to use it as the backdrop of a quick discussion of the new album Be Nice Be Careful by A Fragile Tomorrow.

Now, I worked as a writer (then editor) for a short-lived national pop music mag a few years back, and we covered a lot of the mainstream stuff. One thing I learned is this: oftentimes, the lamer and less imaginative the band, the longer the band name. So I could pretty safely assume that A Place to Bury Strangers and Bullet for My Valentine both sucked, and as fate would have it, they did. (And probably still do, if they’re even around any more. This was four years ago, after all, a lifetime in short-shelf-life pop product terms.) But A Fragile Tomorrow is an exception to this other rule/axiom. The new album is co-produced by Mitch Easter of Let’s Active and Sneakers fame (or shoulda-had-fame), though he’s perhaps better known for his work behind the boards on early REM albums. Either way, his name is something of a trademark of quality, and it also oftentimes indicates that the music will lean happily in a powerpop direction.

In fact that’s the case on Be Nice Be Careful. While there’s an unmistakeable countryish twang to some of the numbers, it’s filtered through a Tom Petty / Gin Blossoms sensibility. On the more rock-oriented tunes (like the opening track “Don’t Need Saving”) A Fragile Tomorrow pleasantly echoes Evan Dando‘s Lemonheads.

The occasional lyrical f-bomb might surprise some listeners, coming as it does wrapped in some very friendly-sounding music, but these South Carolina-based guys seem like a nice enough bunch. The play them some good songs with intelligent (not dopey, not too sentimental, not at all pretentious) lyrics about the usual stuff. If this is the state of powerpop in early 2013, things look good for the future.

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