Failure: The Heart Is A Monster

theheartisamonster

It took 19 years, but Failure followed up their beloved space rock album, Fantastic Planet, with what appears to be a direct sequel last year. The aeronautical themes continue on this album, and the titles of the Segue tracks (of which there are six) pick up where they left off in 1996, as the first track on the album is called “Segue 4.”

Happily, the band totally exceeds everything done on their prior release. In fact, this is probably their best record of all, as it ties the rating I gave for their debut Comfort, and beats that of their second release, Magnified. The songs are mostly very good, though with 18 tracks even as many as six segues can’t prevent some near-clunkers from getting in; “Atom City Queen” is the obvious one to cut here, along with a few of the nothing-y segues.

This is a sonic pleasure, as the production and engineering are top-notch. The ambience of the instruments and the deadpan delivery of the stark lyrics masterfully paint a theme of airborne, spacebound desolation. The final non-segue song, “I Can See Houses,” seems to be about a man aboard a crashing plane, accepting his fate, or at least his likely fate.

This is the sound of a mature band, bringing on power not through speed or even heaviness, but through a thorough execution of a clear vision of an antiseptic, lonely, harsh future.

Rating:
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Mix: “Fair Light Era”
Really Like: “Counterfeit Sky,” “Petting The Carpet”
Like: “Hot Traveler,” “A.M. Amnesia,” “Snow Angel,” “Segue 5,” “Mulholland Dr.,” “Segue 6,” “Come Crashing,” “The Focus,” “Otherwhere,” “Segue 8,” “I Can See Houses”
Meh:
“Segue 4,” “Atom City Queen,” “Segue 7,” “Segue 9”
Song Notes:
 After the jump Continue reading

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Failure: Fantastic Planet

fantasticplanetPretty big let down here. You might recall I reviewed the band’s first album a couple of months ago and liked their second disc over at an old place. So I was pretty pumped to round out the band’s catalog (prior to this year’s reunion/comeback album, at least) with what seems to be regarded as their high point. I can say unequivocally that it is no such thing.

Things are much cleaner this time around. The grungy crunch and rip is gone and in its place is a very smooth, traditional sound. Another feature of grunge that’s left behind is drop-tuning with, again, the band taking a more traditional approach to harmony this time around. But worst of all is the combination of a lack of really great songs and the fact that the band seems to have been on sleeping pills for most of the record.

In typical 90’s fashion, this album is a ridiculous 17 tracks long, but, to be fair, three are those are “Segue” tracks where they’ve recorded some bumper sounds and riffs and use them as transitions or, heck, segues, if you will. But still, 14 songs. And the best stuff is all back loaded in the last eight tracks (seven songs). So the last five songs end things really strong, and, despite their traditional tunings, the band is still really good at weaving in novel sounds at various layers to keep your interest.

But of the first five tracks, three are Meh, and the two Likes are not at all fantastic, to which I call false advertising on the album’s title. So I’m kind of bored and the bar’s been lowered by the time I hit the next three tracks, which all garner Likes, but, again, bar is lowered and all that. Even the Really Likes, “Pitiful,” “Heliotropic,” and “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” are more like strong in parts rather than something that grab my attention throughout.

The production isn’t helping. I mentioned the clean sound, but everything’s super compressed and thus lacking dynamic range, which only heightens the same-key same-tempo problem the band is prone to fall into.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that, again, this is the Failure album that I see getting the most cred in the community. Which makes me wonder if nobody’s heard the other two superior albums or if everybody else is just plain wrong. Either way it’s proof that everybody should just give up and start listening to me since it’s plainly obvious that I’m right and literally everybody else is wrong.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Pitiful,” “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” “Heliotropic”
Like: “Saturday Saviour,” “Sergeant Politeness,” “Blank,” “Segue 2,” “Dirty Blue Balloons,” “Segue 3,” “Another Space Song,” “Stuck On You,” “Daylight”
Meh: “Segue 1,” “Smoking Umbrellas,” “Pillowhead,” “Solaris,” “Leo”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Failure: Comfort

comfortFailure is one of those revered bands from the 90’s that somehow completely passed me by until about 15 years after they’d folded. (Natch they have a new album out this year, though.) I think part of it is that their second album, which is the first of what are considered their two peak albums, was released in 1994, when I was just starting to tune out of new artists cuz they were all like Bush and shit like that. I reviewed that one, Magnified, over at an old place and gave it 3.5 clowns, though I remember liking it 4 – 4.5 clowns worth. (NB: For the last several months I’ve been resisting the half-clown trying to only use them as tie-breakers, because I’d spend too much time debating between, say, 3 and 3.5 clowns, and that’s just a waste.)

Anyway, this is the band’s debut, and directly precedes what’s considered to be the band’s peak. So while I might have had some exposure to this in 1992–I was pretty on top of the new artists game at that point and this was right in my wheel house, being produced by Steve Albini at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, MN (a formula that worked pretty well for Nirvana’s In Utero)–I don’t think it made much of a dent in the music scene at all. Which is kind of a shame because this is a great album, too.

A lot of what I said about this album’s successor rings true here, too. It’s very grunge-influenced, in the drop-tuning, and there’s a bit of a same-key problem, though less so with the same-tempo thing this time around. And they could maybe trim a little intro/outro on some of these songs, especially the few weird quiet sound outros that must have been in between tracks in the CD era, but man, when they hit the groove hard on the Really Likes, just turn it up, ride the wave, and all is forgiven.

Really, though, I have no complaints. It just doesn’t have any songs that stand alone strongly enough to put onto a mix. Probably a fantastic album to listen to stoned.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Submission,” “Screen Man,” “Princess,” “Salt Wound”
Like:
“Macaque,” “Something,” “Swallow,” “Muffled Snaps,” “KIndred,” “Pro-Catastrophe”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading