“No more hateful TV / no more hateful texting / no more hateful Donald … Duck,” goes “Over and Out,” the final track on Another World, the sophomore release from The Flat Five. “The train has left the station / to another world.” With such a cheeky wink, the Chicago fivesome make it clear they are here to usher us toward a brighter future, a transition made all the more enjoyable thanks to their exquisitely precise harmonies and jubilant arrangements. Triumphant horns and sparkly piano notes lay the groundwork for the group’s vocals to shine. And that’s what we’ve come for, a divine taste of the sweet potion created by the masterful voices of Nora O’Connor, Kelly Hogan, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Alex Hall.
Another World strives for something brighter and shinier, even if it means waxing over something dark and gritty. Hidden messages about the sorry state of current affairs lie beneath a polished veneer of cheery birds chirping, sunshine, and technicolor scenes. You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying, they seem to be saying. And how prescient that this is the first time we’re hearing from The Flat Five in four years, since 2016’s It’s a World of Love and Hope. Like that record, Another World was written entirely by Ligon’s elder brother Chris, known for his work with The Dr. Demento Show. And these five voices could not be better suited to execute the perfectly twisted sense of humor woven through each of Ligon’s original songs. The beauty of these songs is revealed slowly as you listen, when you think you know what you’re in for and suddenly they turn a sordid corner.
“Oh What a Day” finds the joy in turning your back on responsibilities for a time, but what begins as a sweet day off from work, swimming in the creek and kissing in the sunlight, becomes an incident of public lewdness and an eventual arrest for drunken indecent exposure. “Look at the Birdy” grows more impatient by the second in the midst of a gritted-teeth attempt to get a toddler to smile for the camera at a Sears family photoshoot. “I Don’t Even Care” narrates in call-and-response fashion the gradual dissolution of a relationship when both people decide to give up trying. Somehow, though, it is impossible to leave any Flat Five number in a funk. These little vignettes, in all their oddball glory, feel like just the ticket.