Fearless Moral Inventory (Self Titled)

by Paul Whyte

The band Fearless Moral Inventory has been around in someway or another for a number of years. Singer-songwriter, Andy Stern, began playing at various venues such as a residency at Thirsty Pagan on Monday nights sometime back and the band has seen various formations and has definitely become a fun and solid rock group. The current line up besides Stern is Corey Gice (guitar), Steve Karels (bass), and Jim Mattson (drums). Matt Ferguson is the latest addition to the band and started after the album’s release.

The band as it plays today has a lively performance that pulls on rock, blues, along with ska and a feel of gypsy music that can break away into jamming parts. The band’s live performance carries plenty of energy, almost to the point where one might forget about the implications of the band’s name itself. Fearless Moral Inventory is a term used in addiction recovery. It deals with coming to terms truthfully with oneself as a means of self understanding and overall well being even if coming to that understanding means encountering difficult changes within an individual. In this, while the music is certainly upbeat most of the time, this album tells a story about taking things to the limit and in the end, finding some sort of stability.

The album begins with the track “Filler,” right from the beginning Stern sings that he needs to “clear his mind” and elaborates on turning to God because of what God might do to him (or rather the voice of the person whose story is portrayed on the album). This seems somehow fitting because the fourth (Fearless Moral Inventory) out of the twelve steps programs such as AA deals with showing your willingness to trust God.

The next song, “Golden Son,” which certainly brings out the sin of envy, “you are the fortunate one, and I hate you.” The songs “Stumblin” and “God Damn Drugs” make no mistake of this story of excess. The song Stumblin is an alt-rock mix of Primus like quirkiness and some heavy break downs. Kind of like a twisted surf song with some fun reverbed out guitar leads. The character in the song stumbles home, passes out in someone’s yard, and ponders if he will throw up or lose his keys. Likewise, “God Damn Drugs,” is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on a drug lifestyle. My favorite part of this song is with a rather strange break down that gets almost Danny Elfman with almost manic lyrics, “where’d the dealer go? I do not know. We just ran out. Now search the couch. You say he is in jail…”

It’s fair to say that there is a tale of self destruction in a lot of this album, but that leads to the last two songs that seem to cause a turn and then a definite change in the character’s life. The song “Replacement” is affirming, yet not totally damning of having a beer. It focuses on finding the positives in oneself and being supportive of others. “We’ll be right there for you with a smile and a drink in both of our hands,” the album ends.

So, the album ends with a positive note, and while I can’t say that this album isn’t exactly angry, it certainly reflects a good amount of negative actions. With that there a few things worth mentioning as I wind this up. The album was recorded at two area studios that I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a number of releases from. Rich Mattson from Sparta Sound did a good chunk of the recording and additional recording and mastering was done by Ryan Rusch at the Weight Room. While there are a few fun twists on sound on the album, the band carries themselves well and the rest of the energy lies with Stern’s vocals.

FMI has two shows coming up. On Friday, January 6, they will be at The Barrel Room and the next week, January 13, they will be at The Rex. They’ll have albums at the shows, or stop by Electric Fetus and pick one up.