Three years ago, I heard Lambs debut album and hadn't been struck as much by a trip-hop group since I heard the debut album by Portishead (which is one of my top albums of all time, by the way). Instead of sticking the usual formula, they mixed up things a bit by sticking some serious stuttering, harsh beats into the formula, mixing them with amazingly emotive, seductive female vocals by Louise Rhodes. It was quite a solid debut, and one that tagged my interest in the future releases of the group.
Since 1996, several things have happened with the group, but their sound is as solid as ever (if a tad bit different) on their follow-up Fear Of Fours. The album starts off with a nice, instrumental opener called "Soft Mistake" that starts off the album on a nice note. It's all swirling tones and muffled slow beats, but it slowly progresses until fading down before ripping into the track "Little Things." Andy Barlow shows that he hasn't lost any form as a drum programmer as a funky bassline pulses and cripsy beats snap like crazy.
Things get a little stranger on the third track and first single off the album entitled "B Line." It starts out with strange sort of be-bop vocals by Rhodes over a light lounge groove and double bass. Gradually, different layers are added until finally the track goes bezerk for the chorus. It sounds like nothing the group has done before, yet it actually works quite nicely. If you're lucky, you can even check out the wickedly funny video somewhere (but you certainly won't find it on MTV). Things go into a little more standard fare on the next track "All In Your Hands," but even it is flavored with a nice backup of stringed instruments. It's also here that one can notice a definite change in the tone of Rhodes' vocals from the first album. It's not something that is noticible all the time, but there's definitely something a little different about it. It sounds a bit more snide in some parts, yet it's as soulfull as ever.
After a nice minute or so filler track, the group comes back with another slower track "Bonfire." It again cruises along at a very deliberate pace, but the added stringed instruments make it the most beautiful track on the album (and possibly the prettiest track the group has done). Things pick up again on the almost 8-minute freestyle number "Ear Parcel" in which Barlow finally gets to show his stuff again. The group throws the slightest bit of ethnic flavor on the track "Here," and it doesn't work quite as well as others, but pick up again soon afterwards with "Fly" and the track "Alien" (inspired by childbirth between albums by Rhodes). The disc closes out with an ultra-minimal, almost acapella track "Lullaby." Again, the strings are there, but they take their time in showing themselves and provide more of a tugging finale.
Overall, the disc is different than their debut in that it doesn't have as many loud beats and instead goes for a more subdued route. While Barlow does show a bit more variety, he doesn't get to show off his crazy loops as much. Without the bi-polar sound, it's definitely more easy to embrace on the first listen, yet its also easier to find new things listen after listen. If you liked their first disc, definitely check this one out, and if you like trip-hop, this one's a must have.