CD REVIEW: Unhinged by the Talented Mr. Neal Fox

It’s a new era for the indie singer/songwriter, and one that’s bringing out the experimental side in seemingly everyone – veteran player Neal Fox included. Fox returns to the headlines this October with a tenth studio album in Unhinged that verifiably takes the concepts of his previous work and nudges them into a modern look that is anything but trend-savvy or aligned with another movement in the underground today. Unhinged is fearlessly rebellious, taking indulgent influences from progressive rock and synthpop and melding them with traditional folk harmonies in the likes of “Truth Matters,” “After the Great Reset,” and the stirring “You Have the Right,” each of which feels a little harder to categorize with convention.

Fox has been ahead of the curve for a while now, hinting at this kind of ambition going all the way back to the ‘90s when he first introduced himself to the world, but from where I sit I think it should be said that never before this LP’s arrival did he make a point of experimenting with the parameters of his aesthetic as much as he did for this recent offering. He’s all-in on the eclecticism of surreal pop, but going about making it in a way that contrasts with the typical in his genre starkly. 

The duality within Unhinged starts and ends with the lyrical content, and from the moment we get into the title track here onward, there’s scarcely an instance in which Fox’s singing isn’t haunting the backdrop with a sincere lust for escape. Songs like “Fishy,” “Insanity Was Throwing a Party,” and “That Rabbit Hole” feature brawny instrumentation not because of a desire on his part to include excess here, but as a genuine ladder to climb from this place of complete confinement in which we find the record’s poetic protagonist living early on in the first half of the tracklist. We witness the struggle, the affirmation, and the ultimate catharsis that comes with release closer to “Dear Facebook” and the equally smart “My Special Girl,” and because of how well-mixed everything here is, we’re never robbed of a stitch of sonic integrity, no matter how intricate or finely-tuned it happens to be. 

Neal Fox’s under-the-radar status has made him all the more removed from the commerciality of pop music in the past twenty years, and despite the fact that he’s yet to receive the recognition a career like his is due, he’s playing like his life depends on it in Unhinged and presenting audiences with one of the most significant releases of his discography thus far. Unhinged doesn’t pose answers; it asks more questions of Fox, who is more than happy to oblige with a sneak preview of what could become a very exciting segment of his later professional life. There’s still more ground left for him to cover, but that’s the whole point of conceptual tracks like “Insanity Was Throwing a Party” or the titular tune in Unhinged; we aren’t listening to a farewell to a career, but merely a stage grown too stagnant for this masterful musician to occupy any longer. 

by Jennifer Munoz

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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