Holy shit. After nearly twenty years, it finally happened.
Failure released a follow up album to Fantastic Planet.
If that means nothing to you, there is something missing from your life. Fantastic Planet is easily the most underrated, ambitious, and downright sonically awe-inspiring record of the post-grunge era; it’s basically porn for audiophiles.
That being said, it’s hard not to compare The Heart Is A Monster to Fantastic Planet; the sensation is akin to watching a movie rendition of your favorite book. But in order to give Failure’s newest release its due praise, it’s best to put Fantastic Planet back on the shelf. It’ll be there for you when nostalgia strikes back.
To be honest, I really wanted to hate the new record. I wanted to bitch and moan about creative authenticity, about how the angst of youth is lost on bands that survive the turmoil of their early successes and release material long after their seminal years.
Well, I was wrong. Sorry, Failure.
The Heart Is A Monster kicks ass. Thanks to band leader Ken Andrew’s audio wizardry, Failure’s sound remains signature: the guitars are layered thicker than a wedding cake sprinkled with delay and dissonance, Greg Edwards’s bass growls louder than a grizzly bear, and Kellii Scott’s cymbals splash like drops of dark matter in outer space. Not only that, Ken Andrew’s voice sounds as strong and melancholic as ever, drawing you deeper into the landscape of space rock Failure is famous for.
I gave the record a number of listens. On the whole, “Hot Traveller”, “Counterfeit Sky”, and “Come Crashing” seem to be the most accurate depictions of what the band has become over the years. Drawing upon influences of all their separate musical endeavors post-Fantastic Planet (most notably, Queens of the Stone Age, Year of the Rabbit, and Autolux), these tracks sound like a collaboration between musician’s who’ve spent the last twenty years writing music, not lamenting over what could’ve been. However, while they do retain a certain “hit” appeal, they lack some of the melodic intricacies that Failure’s songs typically embody—a quality that separated them from the masses of post-grunge imitators and lazier shoe-gazers. The songs drive, but leave you wishing for a longer ride.
For those looking for some good old-fashioned Failure head nodding, you’re in luck: two of the album’s tracks date back to the band’s formative years. “Petting the Carpet” and “I Can See Houses” originally appeared as live recordings on the band’s DVD release Golden, having never been laid down in the studio. Well, here they are, polished, full of the atmosphere and open-ended musical arrangements one would expect when listening to early Failure. And adding to the sentimental listening experience, The Heart Is A Monster is packed with “Segue” tracks (#’s 4-9), which branch off the original musical segues that appeared on Fantastic Planet (#’s 1-3)—a little Easter egg for the avid fans.
For all the record’s merits though, there are a few scratches on the surface of this gem. “Mulholland Dr.” and “Atom City Queen” are a bit of a detour. I imagined “Mulholland Dr.” as the brainchild of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, that is, if both bands dropped even more acid and turned up their guitar distortion. That doesn’t necessarily make it bad, especially considering the references it evokes, but the song felt misplaced, pulling the listener out of the Failure soundscape.
Despite the brief departures, The Heart Is A Monster is a great album. Failure tips their hat to sound that inspired their cultish fan-base, while remaining available to new listeners and adapting to the vast changes which have occurred in the world of audio production since the group last huddled in the studio. For those of you who have been waiting as eagerly as I have…well, you probably already bought the record.
I hope you can agree: it was worth the wait.
Thanks, Failure. We missed you.