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Failure - The Heart Is A Monster

SovereignDanny   (7 reviews)

Posted: 06/16/2015 | Comments: 0 | Rate:

Before I get started, I'd like to mention how excited I am that Failure and Hum will be touring the following dates:

Aug 9- Charlotte, NC- Neighborhood Theatre
Aug 11- Washington, DC- 9:30 Club
Aug 13- New York, NY- Webster Hall - for a great deal on hotels for this, check out newyorkhotels.org
Aug 14- Philadelphia, PA- Electric Factory
Aug 15- Boston, MA- Royal Nightclub
Sep 11-13 Chicago, IL Riot Fest

OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD I’M LISTENING TO THE NEW FAILURE ALBUM.

If that first sentence doesn’t make it incredibly apparent, I am, and have been for some time, a huge Failure fan. Before their short string of reunion shows last year, they had been a band I adored for a very long time, but had never expected to see. In conjunction with these shows, they released two new songs, Come Crashing and The Focus. Both of these songs had everything I loved about Failure; the hooky yet unconventional songwriting, the spaced out atmosphere, incredibly tight rhythmic feel created by solid basslines and super tight drumming, and perfect interplay between Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards, who seamlessly switch between bass and guitar both live and in studio. Seeing Failure was a show highlight, no fuck it, a life highlight for me. As they closed with Daylight, I could have cried were I a mere mortal. Whatever, I had dirt in my eye, don’t look at me. I could re-hash their history, but what you need to know is this; Failure was an amazing rock band who met their demise in the mid 90s after inking a major label deal that went nowhere. During their career, they went largely unnoticed. It’s thanks to bands like A Perfect Circle and Paramore covering them, and Cave In basing a whole album off of their signature space rock meets grunge sound that people even know who they are for the most part.

When they announced a new album was being made, and not just the two singles, I pre-ordered it so fast, my computer went back in time. I was so excited. Hot Traveler was released as a single, and I enjoyed it’s shaky, off time groove, and infectious vocals. It wasn’t as good as my favorites on Magnified, Fantastic Planet, and Comfort, but you know what? It was Failure, and that’s all I could have asked for. They weren’t fucking with the formula, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Then they released Mullholland Drive. I didn’t like it. I immediately rolled my eyes and waited for the dynamics that Failure always grabbed me with. Their ability to create space rock heavy on the rock has always been one of their most appealing features to me. This song lacked that. I couldn’t find a damn thing I liked about it upon first listen. I was now worried.

So, it was with great excitement and trepidation that I embarked on a full review of their new album The Heart is a Monster. Can’t say I love the title very much, but well, that’s kind of irrelevant. I’m going to write this as I first listen to the whole thing, so if it seems a bit disjointed, oh well.

In addition to playing on the album, Ken Andrews, the singer and multi-instrumentalist also behind ON and Year of the Rabbit mixed the album and clearly had a heavy hand in the recording process. Overall, the album sounds great from a production standpoint. Everything is clear as day, and nothing overpowers anything else, except where that is clearly the intention of the songwriting.
Failure opens the album with one of their signature Segues, and goes right into Hot Traveler. Upon second listen, I definitely like this a lot more than I originally did. Cool. NEXT!

A.M. Amnesiac had me throwing my arms up in victory at my computer. This is why I love Failure. By the time Ken Andrews’s gruff yet soothing voice took center stage during what one could almost call a chorus, I was in love.
Snow Angel is an extremely pleasant laid back song. It’s not quite a ballad, but it lacks a bit of dynamic. However, unlike Mullholland Drive, I didn’t feel like I was left wanting.

Man, the weird, almost mathy riff over the “loud part” of Atom City Queen is awesome. The vocals on this song sound a bit more processed than the norm for Failure, or like there may be a backing vocalist (I can’t tell), but it works perfectly. By the time this song hits full on rock, it had me nodding my head. This reminds me a lot of what Nevermind could have sounded like if Nirvana took a lot of risks and had a lot of delay pedals.

Another Segue. Cool.

Counterfeit Sky has been played live on their most recent string of shows, and for my friends lucky enough to see it, they’ve been enthralled. Well, I’m here to say that recorded, it’s haunting, beautiful, powerful, and driven perfectly by Andrews’s vocals. This song reminds me a bit of True Widow or Nothing actually, and other shoegaze influenced bands that have been popping up. I’d imagine they’d be more influenced by older shoegaze bands like Slowdive or Ride, but regardless, their blend of rock with the spacey elements does produce a similar sound to those newer bands. Not a bad thing, because Failure is better than anyone at pretty much anything they try and do. I’m noticing the album as a whole is not nearly as riffy as Fantastic Planet or Magnified, but I’m hardly complaining. I wouldn’t call this or any other song on it accessible, as the structures are complex, but there’s nothing anyone would hear on The Heart is a Monster and call aural torture.

Petting the Carpet starts immediately with an awesome bass groove. One thing that has always made Failure stand out is that the bass is just as important to the song as the guitar. In a lot of bands, the bass is just part of the rhythm section, or even worse, barely noticeable. This has never been the case for Failure. Even as the song kicks into full swing, the bass stays prominent and drives the song. Again, a pretty mellow song, but the tempo really allows for each component of the band to do its thing. Andrews’s voice is given room on the chorus, the guitar swells and booms with life when it needs to, but retreats to airy melodies in places, and the bass just keeps on thumping through. Kelli Scott’s precise and tight drumming fills (no pun intended) in all the blank spaces of the song and keeps it moving.

Oh boy, here’s Mullholland Drive again. On second listen, it’s still a pretty lame song. It reminds me of something that could be in the credits of a newer Disney movie. I’m a shameless fanboy for this band, but giving the album an impartial review is my goal here, and this is not good. I still can’t find anything I love about this song, but I’ll give it a 3/10 just because nothing is played poorly, I just don’t like the songwriting much at all. Given the context of it on the album, I like it more than I did, but this will likely be a song I skip on re-listens of the album.

Fair Light Era almost immediately makes up for that last snoozefest. It kicks right in with a lot of energy, but also quickly tapers off into rocky atmospherics. Holy shit, when it really gets going, it’s one of the best songs on this album so far. A lot of variety to this song, but it still all makes sense together. I’m reminded how damn good these guys are at writing a song with unconventional structure, but still tying it all together without sounding like they were crowbarring a bunch of “parts” together.

Another Segue. These don’t take away from the album but really aren’t essential.
Come Crashing is one of the more upbeat and almost happy sounding songs on the album. Not that the rest of the album is a bummer, but it’s certainly not extremely joyful. I liked it when they released it last year, and it still stands out as a great song. It’s not the best on the album, but it’s damn good. This sounds like it may be the exact same recording that’s been floating around for a while. I have no complaints.

Another Segue. Whatever.

The Focus fucking rules. This is definitely a completely different recording, and this version is even better than the one that had been around for a bit. It has even more energy and the drums really take forefront and Scott is hitting HARD, and it rules. It lacks the super catchy chorus from the original version, but I’m hardly complaining, because every change to this song is for the better. In fact, save the background melody, the song really doesn’t sound anything like the other version. May as well have retitled it.

Otherwhere isn’t bad, but after having my balls blown off by the last two real songs, I’m not entirely impressed. They should have just put the original version of The Focus here, and made it a two part thing. Obviously I know what’s better for Failure than Failure themselves because I’m an extremely proficient musician that hasn’t even looked at his guitar since 2011.

Another Segue. You know, I really don’t mind these at all, but I also wouldn’t mind one or two less.

I Can See Houses is the last real song on the album. It starts very slowly with only drums and bass for the first 30 seconds of the song, followed shortly thereafter by vocals. It really doesn’t pick up at all, but the melodies created by the vocals and the sparse, lightly plucked guitar create a great atmosphere. It ends the album on a cool spacey note, and kinda drifts away.

The final segue is the first one that I found really interesting. It kind of reminds me of a beat by Dalek, but very subdued.

Well, that sure took a while, but it was worth it.

TLDR: If you love Failure, this album will make you smile like an idiot. If you’ve never heard Failure, I’ll say that Fantastic Planet is where you should start, but you’d be in no way be going wrong by starting here. FAILURE IS BACK AND THEY MADE MY DAY.

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