Fang Island


Written by: DR on 28/11/2012 14:01:24

Fang Island's self-titled album was not their debut LP, but it might as well have been. It came out of nowhere and caught everybody off-guard, offering a high-fiving, group-singing, three guitarist-ing, somersaulting, bombastic barrage of riffs that remains not only some of the most infectious and positive guitar-music you've ever heard, but also some of the most creative. Unfortunately though, "Major", Fang Island's latest opus, doesn't live up to the standards set by its predecessor as it sees the band in that awkward transitional phase of trying to explore new approaches to song-writing, and occasionally even forgetting what made them so special to begin.

Aptly described as the sound of 'everyone high-fiving everyone', "Fang Island" put the listener in an inconceivable state of ecstasy. The members coerced so much energy and positivity from their guitars that it was impossible to not get lost in the layers of uplifting riffs. Aware of the power of said riffs, their self-titled album was built around such aforementioned incredible guitar-work. Moreover, while vocals were included, what they were saying didn't really matter because they felt like a reaction to the guitars than actual lyrics. However, "Major" shows a Fang Island that have lost their way slightly from this. The song-writing feels a lot more contrived - it lacks its former surprise. Now, it's evident that a lot more thought has gone into the lyrics and vocals. As a result, parts of the album iare more focused on them than they should be. Although focusing more on developing your song-writing isn't necessarily a bad thing in principle, in the songs where this is the evident, the energy of the guitars, and ultimately the songs, suffer.

This is particularly evident in the first half of the album, and so is the fact that at some point between the self-titled and this, Fang Island lost two members - one of which was guitarist Nick Sadler, formerly of Dinosaur. Unusually flat, the likes of "Never Understand", "Seek It Out", "Sisterly" and the keyboard-heavy "Kindergarten" aren't exactly bad songs, but they do lack the child-like enthusiasm for exploring new ideas whilst mid-thought, or in this case mid-song, than we've come to expect of Fang Island. Undoubtedly, they do grow on you after repeated listens, and it becomes clear that they are solid songs, but we don't necessarily want a Fang Island song to be just 'solid'; we want a Fang Island song to make us bounce-off-the-walls excited, and we want it to make us so from the first listen.

Things do get better as the album progresses, though. Despite being placed at the end of the rather unremarkable first half, "Make Me" craves your attention as it creates one of the finest moments of the album with a crescendo that recalls the euphoria of "Sideswiper" in its intricate and multi-layered guitar-soloing eruption. The relentlessly paced guitar-fueled "Asunder", only the other side of "Never Understand", puts more focus on the axe-work than vocal-work while still including sporadic vocals, and as a result is the best track on the album. Certainly, it's the one that seems to inject some life into the record because thereafter the second-half is what you came to hear from Fang Island. Following is "Dooney Rock", an instrumental assault of exuberance which will make you want to air-guitar like you're Jack Black. There are even examples of when the progression Fang Island are attempting to make reaps rewards. "Chime Out", a song with a deliberately sluggish pace, builds through a dense soundscape of vocals, fuzzy riffage, and soaring licks. It's a rare moment, too, in which you realise that you actually want to find out what the lyrics are so that you may sing along.

It is an inconsistent record, and it does take multiple listens before it grows on you. But despite this, Fang Island's desire to create the most delightful music they can and their unabashed sincerity in doing so, even in their weakest songs, is not a bad way to spend three quarters of an hour. In fact, you'd have to be dead to fail in finding something you like about "Major". While there's no escaping the fact it's not as exciting as "Fang Island", quite possibly because Fang Island no longer have the element of surprise as their disposal, if there is any band that can help you shed your cynicism, encourage you to the make the best of what you've been given and just enjoy yourself, it is Fang Island.


Download: Make Me, Asunder, Dooney Rock
For The Fans of: Andrew W.K., Maps & Atlases
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 24.07.2012
Sargent House

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