In our MKE Music Rewind series, we revisit a notable Milwaukee song that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
Think about some of your favorite Milwaukee projects from the early 2000s. Go ahead and take a few moments. Okay, is that enough time? Even though you’ve just clicked on and you’re currently reading an article about the band, Fable & The World Flat probably isn’t on that list of acts. But they should be. About 10 years ago, the little-known and long gone band put out a nearly flawless album.
After putting their high school band, The Meteah Strike, to bed in the early aughts, Steven Look, Matt Gorski, and Kenneth “Bud” Averitt brought their beyond-their-years instrumentation and songwriting to a new project. With the addition of drummer Michael Stewart (previously of Those Royals, The Wildbirds, and Oxford High), Fable & The World Flat was born. Much like Meteah Strike, this new band managed to craft material with lyrics, musicianship, and direction that few would expect from four kids in their early- and mid-twenties.
Fable’s 2009 debut, Ladies & Gentlemen, is all killer. There isn’t a bad song on the album. Throughout the impressive effort, in which the band bats 1.000, Look’s silky smooth vocals coalesce with sleek indie rock framework, tight percussion, and electronic flourishes that elevate each and every song. It’s hard to focus on a single song, and my favorite one changes with each listen. However, I think “Straight Jackin The Yellow Brick Road” does an excellent job of showing Fable & The World Flat’s depth and inimitable sound.
Terrible name aside, the album’s ninth song may show the band at its very best. “Straight Jackin…” highlights Look’s lyrical prowess with winning lines like “I’m looking at a road that’s paved in gold / instead of taking it, I’m taking pieces home” and “Every day is a play in an opera hall / Some would say I’ve forgotten my role.” His trademark relaxed delivery is smothered by a cacophony of splashy cymbals, keys, loops, and chunky guitar licks that come together to forge a highlight on an album that’s full of memorable moments. Other standout songs include “Dying Bay Vista” and “Your Carbon Faceprint” and, well, every other song. Honestly, just listen to the whole album now and pick your favorites.
After the record’s release, Fable & The World Flat experienced some lineup changes. Averitt started playing in Cyborg Fortress. Stewart moved out east and drummed with Boston-based Sinnet. (He’s since moved back to Milwaukee.) Over time, the band turned into a recording project of sorts for Look and Gorski. In 2013, they put out two albums—The Great Attractor and Dark Flow—that got little-to-no support in the form of live shows, even though some songs (namely “The Guilty Are Innocent” and “Soliloquy In Symphony”) matched, or even exceeded, the preceding album. Along the way, members and material were pulled into Fresh Cut Collective’s ever-changing orbit, and Fable was firmly placed in the back seat. Ultimately, Gorski’s relocation to Los Angeles spelled the end of Fable in 2014. Look has since gone back to his roots as the bandleader of the great surf-punk outfit, King Eye & The Squirts.
Though close to a decade has passed and the band’s members have moved and/or delved into far different musical endeavors through the years, Fable & The World Flat—and especially their outstanding Ladies & Gentlemen—will always hold a special place in my heart and my car stereo. To this day, I don’t think there’s a Milwaukee-made record I’ve heard more. Roughly 10 years later, the material absolutely still holds up. If anything, local music has just recently caught up to the astounding and eclectic sounds a few twenty-somethings from West Allis released in 2009.
No, Fable & The World Flat probably wasn’t in your top five during its relatively brief run. The band’s debut album, though, probably should be.