Charter Mint 400 recording act Fairmont are celebrating their 20th anniversary together with their 11th album, "Liminal Spaces." Founding singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-videographer-graphic artist Neil Sabatino’s multi-hyphenated talents also include founder of the label. And what a great job he does all around on behalf of the North Jersey indie’s many bands and his bandmates. They are longtime collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Christian Kisala, who appears on a majority of the band’s catalog; keyboarist Lisa Grabinski (Dharma Plums), who’s appearing on her second Fairmont album; bassist Matt Cheplic (The Bitter Chills, Splendid Engine) on his third, and new guitarist Evan Pope (The Maravines).
The nine-song 31-minute exercise in garage rock and early alt-rock kicks off with its first single, “High Water Mark,” a dichotomous, emotional tune that recalls the British roots of modern rock, such as Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cure, and The Smiths. Lilting keyboards adad a Celtic rock flavor to somber lyrics about sadness amidst the sunshine of summer, the beauty of autumn, and the hope of spring, all of which are accented by an uplifting beat.
Next “Naughty Naughty” is so British-sounding that Neil, an Italian-American from North Jersey, sports a faux accent on the fuzzadelic garage rocker, as he moans ‘n’ groans lamenting wasted nights upon the sharpest edge of pop.
Much like the opening single, “Strange Tourist” mines the moody treasure of late ’70s, early ’80s Brit alt-rock as it contemplates human nature. Another strong keyboard performance brings an innocent carnival-like feel to the otherwise contemplative track as it dances along buzzsaw guitars.
If you threw the poppy emotion of Echo & the Bunnymen, the jangle of R.E.M., and the energy of mid-’60s rock into the rock ‘n’ roll blender, you’d get the peppy love song “Love Like Razorblades,” the album’s second single. I love the vibra slap on “House on Fire (Water Turned Off),” a Talking Heads-like fusion of rhythm and angst. Also fun is the entertaining mix of ’80s alt-rock ala Violent Femmes with the urgently bouncy beat of ’60s garage rock on “That Sinking Feeling.”
The album closes out with “Please Excuse the Mess,” a Bowiesque breakdown about a spoiled brat; “The Good Life,” a rousing anthem for the lonely and withdrawn, and “The Devil, The Wolves, The Vampire,” a fun rhyme about horror propelled by a bouncy jangle.
Neil and Mint 400 immediately will follow the impresive “Liminal Spaces” with a reissue of “Heartbreak in Stereo,” the only album by Pencey Prep, the early millennial band he was in with Frank Iero before Frank joined Eyeball Records label mates My Chemical Romance. When you’ve got history like that, it makes sense that Neil never seems to rest. And good for the New Jersey music scene that he doesn’t.