Fighting Fiction

The Long And Short Of It

Written by: TL on 22/12/2013 16:52:39

Some time last year I stumbled upon "Cameraphones & Choruses", the single from the then recent self-titled debut LP of Brighton-based Fighting Fiction, and something about it struck me like this was a band I should look out for. I never got around to reviewing that album however, and the band had slipped my mind up until I suddenly had a chance to see them live, playing the tiny stage outside of the Crowbar at Pre-Fest 12 to almost nobody. Some bigger band had obviously pulled everyone away from the Brits, clearly not appreciating the strain it must've put on the young band's resources to come to a different continent to play, yet if the band was disappointed, they didn't let it show. Instead they played a solid performance to the dozen people that were there, cracking self-aware joke in between songs and generally just giving off the vibe of a band that "gets it".

This sympathetic performance encouraged me to rediscover the band, putting this year's sophomore album "The Long And Short Of It" on a long playlist of releases I wanted to write about, and at this point the release has been streaming through my headphones with regular intervals over the past couple of weeks. And every time it's done so, I've had to remind myself that I'm not in fact listening to Frank Turner, for while Fighting Fiction set up a more straight forward rock format compared to Turner's songwriter style, the accent, tone of voice and narrative lyrical style strike me as highly similar, especially in the highlight track "A Common Enemy", which medleys in "When The Saints Go Marching In" while offering some candid regret for the fact that people seemingly only get along when they can rally against someone else.

While I compare Fighting Fiction to the likes of Turner and also Spycatcher however, it's necessary to dwell a moment on the fact that this band's punk rock setup is strictly conventional. Anything and everything you hear on "The Long And Short Of It" comes from a guitar, a bass, a drum/cymbal or a voice - There are no bells nor whistles, yet having imposed such restrictions on themselves seemingly only allows the band to show off their understanding of how to make something diverse and engaging using nothing but the basics. The lyrics are clearly enunciated in a varied, hoarse-throated delivery, the backing harmonies glide in and out of earfall subtly but effectively and the singing and guitar riffing take turns centre-stage with seamless transitions. Meanwhile this knack for songwriting is shown to be anything but one-dimensional, as "The Long And Short Of It" is also nicely diverse as an album, with triumphant, fast-paced, fists-in-the-air punk-rockers gratifying the home crowd early on, before the gears are gradually changed down through the thumping "Enabler" towards the more balladic "Smiling Through Gritted Teeth" to the all-acoustic "Rebel Without A Cause".

Toward the end, the tempo is predictably picked back up, though without ever compromising the highly melodic approach of the band, and the record ends as proper punk-rock as it has been since its beginning. Its defining character is its minimalistic punk-tone, which stubbornly refuses to set the band much apart from a legion of contemporaries (especially if one includes the American scene) yet simultaneously reveals some rarely seen old virtues in terms of dynamic songwriting. It makes for an album that feels like an inviting punk-rock record which still has some urgent, thought-out messages to articulate, and while the hooks and the sense of identity aren't yet strong enough to line the band up with torch bearers in the genre such as The Menzingers, Red City Radio or Off With Their Heads, I get the feeling that if Fighting Fiction can keep adding to their talents rather than resting on their laurels, then it's only a matter of more time and hard work before they get there.

Download: A Common Enemy; Casey Jones, Union Scab; Smiling Through Gritted Teeth
For The Fans Of: Apologies, I Have None; Spycatcher; Frank Turner; Red City Radio

Release Date 16.09.2013
Xtra Mile Recordings / Dead Planet Records

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