Album review: Fool's Gold

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

A Fool's Gold show is always a party, but it's the kind that goes beyond mere debauchery. This band has always been about blending cultures and exploring roots, particularly with Israeli-born bassist Luke Top singing in Hebrew more often than not.

The party doesn't stop on sophomore album "Leave No Trace," but it gets a little darker and more personal, not to mention more conventional. Top has traded his Hebrew narration for English in an effort to communicate more precisely, and while the rhythm-heavy Afropop influence persists in some form, the song structures are far more conventional than before. The lineup has also been pared down from double digits to five, though Columbus native Brad Caulkins (The Sun) is still in the mix playing sax, guitar and keys.

Appreciating Fool's Gold strictly as a cultural curiosity would be foolish, but "Leave No Trace" feels like the work of an unsure hand. By streamlining their sound they've lost a piece of what made them vital.

The title track feels more indebted to The Smiths than Tony Allen, though it still bangs reverentially. Top's brawny croon has never sounded more like Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys; Fool's Gold has never sounded so much like co-frontman Lewis Pesacov's other, more straightforward band, Foreign Born.

They veer even further from their old sound amid the ominous, icy synths of the perplexingly titled "Balmy." On the other hand, "Tel Aviv" brings back Top's Hebrew and the feel of their self-titled debut.

It all adds up to a somewhat muddled experience, but one bursting with enough ideas and energy to carry the album through to completion. Even as Fool's Gold struggles through an identity crisis of sorts, something's shining through to keep the celebration going strong.

"Leave No Trace"

2 1/2 stars out of 4


8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19

1151 N. High St., Short North