FAILURE: THE HEART IS A MONSTER
Coming nineteen long years after their last release, Failure is back with the new record, The Heart Is A Monster! The Los Angeles alt rockers, who were initially active from 1990 until their break-up in 1997, recorded three albums during their initial run, with each gaining in listeners and musical identity. The band, whose sound was somewhat thick and sludgy in the early years, would become known for their meticulously layered sonic studio creations. Interestingly, in 1992 Failure recorded their debut album, Comfort, in Minnesota with Steve Albini at Pachyderm Studios…the very same studio where Nirvana would record In Utero just a few months later! The band gained more fans during this time as a result of their tours with Tool and the career trajectory of Failure seemed destined for ultimate success. Though initially hampered by label woes, the band would go on to release Fantastic Planet in 1996 to critical acclaim and even scored heavy radio rotation with the single “Stuck On You.” The good times came to an end a year later amid burnout, drug dependency and in-fighting…relegating Failure to “could have been” status…until now that is!!
While Fantastic Planet has spent the last nineteen years aging gracefully like a fine wine and taking on the role as a cult classic, the band members have kept busy with numerous other projects: lead vocalist and guitar svengali Ken Andrews is an in-demand producer and mixer for artists such as Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Tenacious D; Greg Edwards has played in numerous outfits, but has achieved his most notable acclaim in the outstanding band Autolux; and drummer Kellii Scott has spent time in the bands Blinker The Star and Veruca Salt.
So the question then becomes: What does Failure sound like in 2015? Well, the answer is that they sound exactly as any longtime fan would want them to…in essence, The Heart Is A Monster sounds like the natural follow-up to Fantastic Planet!
The new record picks up right where the last one left off…quite literally. On that last record, the band interspersed three instrumental/atmospheric “Segues” throughout the album and this time round we are treated to six more, and as such, the first track on the album just happens to be called “Segue 4.”
Things kick in to a high and groovy gear on the second cut “Hot Traveler.” This is classic Failure! With its thick bass notes, angular guitar riffs and immaculate production, “Hot Traveler” can sit with the very best that the band has ever written. Similarly, “Petting The Carpet” has a devilish bass tone and is immediately reminiscent of FP’s “Smoking Umbrellas.”
A slower tempo is explored with great success on songs like “Mulholland Dr.” and “I Can See Houses” and when these songs are paired with the “Segue” interludes The Heart Is A Monster becomes a record that is not only self-assured but distinctly varied!
In the 1990s Failure put out three records of increasingly unique and complex rock music that was somewhat out of step with the flavour of those times (e.g.: grunge, lo-fi indie rock). Now, with the space of time, perhaps Failure can find more success and respect the second time round. One thing is for sure: of all the reunion records that we have reviewed over the last few years (and there have been many), for my money, The Heart Is A Monster sits at the top of the pile. It succeeds because it serves as an instant reminder of the classic sound of Failure, while at the same time acting as a preview of the possible sounds to come.
- Johnny Hooper