But seriously, encountering us with everything from strutting blues guitars to reggae-style grooves, pop melodies, folky harmonies, and lyrical content that recalls the rebelliousness of an early Bob Dylan at times, Neal Fox had an ambitious plan for his new album, and he went all the way with it in Unhinged. Due to be released this coming October, Unhinged is an amalgamative offering that plays the part of an aesthetical chameleon-like no other LP I’ve listened to this past summer, and while it’s not exactly a complete stylistic change for its creator, I do think it could represent the start of a new chapter in his ongoing story.
There’s a lot of raw emotion in the title track, “The Good In Us,” “After the Great Reset,” and “That Rabbit Hole” that is hard for me to picture existing within this player’s body of work ahead of this album arriving on our stereos. Whether it’s been the past year or just the time that has elapsed since he was last occupying a recording studio, something has profoundly reshaped the oomph in Fox’s voice and his execution, both of which are bright stars no audiophile will be able to ignore in this piece.
Even when he’s employing sarcasm and a scathing social commentary in tracks like “Truth Matters” and “Dear Facebook,” there’s an endearing quality to the drive behind every verse Neal Fox is singing to us in this record, which also isn’t to discount the presence and importance of the instrumental backdrop. Contrarily, I don’t know that tracks like “Fishy,” “You Have the Right,” and “Insanity Was Throwing a Party” would be as fluid as they are in this presentation of songs were they not centered on a relationship between artist and medium rather than a specific lyrical theme (and that’s it).
There’s a flowy component to the narratives in this record that makes the tracklist feel like a complete story broken up into different movements as opposed to a collection of thoughts and feelings reassembled in a melodic, accessible format, and as conceptual as it gets art times, excess is never invited into the mix here. Harmonies are made to extend the sentiments of a lyric in this LP, much as beats are meant to reinforce a mood rather than simply lay down a pace for the instruments to keep, and while it pains me to admit as much as a critic, these factors make Unhinged a diamond in the rough right now.
Neal Fox’s time in the underground has spanned nearly a quarter-century, but I don’t think you need to be a longtime listener to really appreciate the maverick mentality he brought with him into the creation of Unhinged this year. He’s taking everything he’s ever learned in the studio and on the road and boiling it down to a simplified, streamlined style of pop music that serves as the antithesis to the overindulgent charismas of a current mainstream sound. It’s refreshing and not the least bit elitist, only further separating this album and those coming from Fox’s closest rivals this year.