Funeral For A Friend

Your History is Mine: 2002 - 2009

Written by: DR on 11/10/2009 17:50:19

The original draft of this 'review' was over 1000 words long, but the main problem with it was that it was more like a diary entry from a former fanboy lamenting how Funeral For A Friend are but a shadow of the band they once were, rather than a fair review of the record. You see, once upon a time I was probably the biggest fan of this band around. For years my music taste pretty much consisted of their entire discography, b-sides and just about any bootlegs I could get my hands on included, and plays of this band were easily into five-figure totals. In a sense though, I was no more than your average teenager, because it seemed that pretty much everyone I knew fell in love with them. Only a year after first exploding on the scene back in 2002 with "Between Order And Model", the band had released another great EP, "Four Ways To Scream Your Name", signed to "Ferret Records" and blessed us all with the critically acclaimed "Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation". I get the feeling that the rest of the music world never quite took to FFAF the way we did in the UK, but on these shores, that debut LP earned the Welsh quintet instant 'legend' status.

If you go to a gig, songs like "Novella" and "Red Is The New Black" still garner a far greater reception than the newer material does. And that's because there's an abnormal teenager to twenty-something ratio. Those twenty-somethings who grew up worshipping "Casually Dressed..." have probably since been to university, got jobs etc. One guy I chatted with mentioned he has a young family; he's now an adult with genuine responsibility. That has all been put aside for one night so he can relive his teenage days, get drunk and sing along with lines like Yet I'm nothing more than a line in your book", even if it means putting up with the crap like "Kicking And Screaming" in between the classics.

Nobody can deny that Funeral for a Friend were once great. They single-handedly brought the floppy-fringed sing/scream side of 'emo' to the UK, and had an impact and influence that no band has had since. There are 16 songs on this 'best of' album, 4 of which are brand-spanking new, 9 of which are from the band's best days, and only 3 are from the lacklustre (in comparison) two most recent releases. The band are well aware of when they were at their best, but they refuse to "take a step back" - they essentially refuse to make "Casually Dressed pt. 2" - which I think we can all agree isn't due to artistic progression, but due to the fact that if they tried, and failed, the only real reputation they have - the one "Casually Dressed..." endowed them with, the one they still leech off today - would be shot.

As soon as "10.45 Amsterdam Conversations" starts the album you feel all that excitement and giddiness flooding back as you sing mindlessly along with "Then a silence so heavy, broken hearts fall from throats / when heaven is remembered but never seen / through hearts shaped like kaleidoscopes." And when their acme, their pinnacle, "Escape Artists Never Die" begins, it takes you back to their live show, and how the entire crowd waits in anticipation for "It's everything, it's everything / Timing is everything, it's everything." the cymbal strikes and the final 60 seconds of brilliant musicianship starts, the audience all react the same way: total euphoria. Towards the tail end of the album though, it's hard not to get depressed at the turn the band has now taken. The likes of "Escape Artists Never Die", "Red Is The New Black" and "This Year's Most Open Heartbreak" are some of the finest songs the genre has produced, but within a few minutes you go from "The situation is all fucked!" (the end of Red Is The New Black) to the simply awful "Kicking And Screaming". In all honesty, it's hard to believe it's the same band.

The four new songs were always going to be the ones you skip ahead to, and though they do mark a slightly heavier approach than "Memory And Humanity", it feels almost like they're in a rut, and they're uncommitted as to what direction to push the band in next. They want to include that poppy edge of recent releases without compromising on any of that signature riffage that endeared them to so many in the first place, and it has just ended up as a mess. I'd be lying if I let you believe it's all bad though, because "Built To Last" is a straightforward rock song along the lines of "To Die Like Mouchette". It isn't brilliant, but it shines brighter than the rest. Furthermore, it was interesting to hear new bassist Gavin Burrough taking over Gareth Davies, has quite a few lines to sing, and he can definitely hit a note.

In total and blatant honesty, I would not be the least bit surprised if the band called it quits soon (you can't hold me to that though). They no longer seem to have that spark that made them once special, and since "Hours" they are instead left flailing in the murky and overpopulated waters of mediocrity, and it tears me apart to write that. I hope they prove me wrong, I hope they write another album, and completely blow me away, because I would be more than happy to gorge on my words. Is this album worth your money? I'd say yes, not so much for the new songs, but because it will most likely remind you why you fell in love with Funeral For A Friend in the first place, force you to put everything aside, and spend your afternoon nostalgically listening to their early work.


Download: This Year's Most Open Heartbreak, She Drove Me To Daytime Television, Escape Artists Never Die, Streetcar
For Fans of: Funeral for a Friend
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 24.03.2009
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