Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Under the Influence of Failure

While it most certainly has been a long time coming, the Failure tribute album, "The Nurse Who Loved Me," is finally ready to see release. As the saying goes..."if it's worth being done, it's worth being done right," and Pop Up Records will be releasing a tribute album that Failure and their fans can truly be proud of. I've been lucky enough to watch this project grow for a while now, and the finished product is everything I hoped it would be.

When I first heard about this project, there were a few names I knew and loved, such as Cave In and Revolution Smile. The rest of the bands were all completely unknown to me at the time, but I figured at least they had Failure as an influence going for them. As the project went on in the various stages towards completion, both of the aforementioned bands dropped out for various reasons, and in no way at all is the album's quality and worth cheapened by that. The bands that make up "The Nurse Who Loved Me" prove that they want to be on this compilation, and look towards the future for alternative space rock. Bands like Orion, Satellite Tragedy, Solare, and many of the others show strong promise and a fresh breathe in a genre that has been seldom heard since the 90's. With out further ado...I give you a track-by-track, or band-by-band breakdown of "The Nurse Who Loved Me - A Tribute to Failure".

The album opens with Evangelos' cover of "Saturday Savior". They stay fairly true to the sound of the original with a more ethereal sound to their attack. The song builds in a more electronic rise, with blips and bloops moving along floating waves of sound. The chorus hits with the same impact and clarity of the original, before leading back into the dream like verses. Synthetic voice changes are brought in for variety and texture. This is a great taste of what is to come on the rest of the album. These are not merely bands trying to be/sound just like Failure, but rather bands that are all influenced by one of the greatest bands of the 90s. With so much to love about Failure, many of the bands have found completely different aspects of the Failure sound that has influenced them. "Sergeant Politeness," follows, as performed here by (Damn) This Desert Air. Unlike the opening track, this one stays very, very close to the original. Certainly not a bad thing, as they come across on their cover as a band that has listened and studied the various layers of Failure to an extremely precise point. They nail every nuance of this track, and create a fresh, inspired cover of the original. Next up is Exeter's cover of "Smoking Umbrellas". They tend to stay pretty close to Failure's version, but embellish it with extra guitar and vocal texturing. They proudly wear their Failure influence in their music, and do a great job in showing the listener why.

Then comes Sex Club Reject with their take on "Solaris". They have delivered a very unique version here, with an almost "house" like drum beat. The rhythms slide and pulse against a slow synth keyboard and dirty distorted guitars. The vocals have a high quality raw grunge feel towards them, and these elements all combine to create incredible textural music. Orion continue the album with "Another Space Song". I've always considered this to be the "first single" of sorts, as it was the first track to be posted on the tribute's Myspace page. I've had a lot of time to hear this song, as well as Orion's phenomenal EP, "10011011," and the more I hear both, the more I love them! Orion's sound reminds me of a mixed influence between Failure and Hum, creating one super ultimate space rock sound. This cover has a tight hypnotizing rhythm to it, with the fuzzy space age guitars and beautifully melodic vocals. I really couldn't imagine a much better version of this song by any band, and look forward to a bright future from Orion. Emotron deliver an electronic version of "Undone". This song has an IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) feel to it, and packs in the fast paced electronic drums, samples, high floating keyboard melodies, and HEAVILY reverb soaked ethereal vocals, that just seem to float away rather than end. I could see this song and its constant tempo shifts being played in clubs throughout Europe, and anywhere electronic music is enjoyed. While straying very far from the original, it still manages to keep the sound familiar.

Stemage have chosen to cover "Leo," for the album, and do so with cheer simplicity. Compared to the rest of the tributees, Stemage are the meat and potatoes approach to Failure's influence. This is a welcome addition however, as they play with a demanding urgency to their sound. The bridge contains an unexpected shift in the guitar which blows me away every time. Their sound reminds me of the simplicity and rawness of Local H, only with Failure's influence, and it sounds amazing. Satellite Tragedy continue with their strong cover of "Frogs". They do an exceptionally well versed sounding rendition, that stays close to the original while adding in their own flavors to the sound. Piercing guitars, thick heavy bass line, and tight drums allow Satellite Tragedy room to move around within the context of the original, bringing in and out new layers that should make Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards proud. "Pitiful," is the latest addition to the project, and a collaboration between Rilian and The Company We Keep. Slightly electronic, the vocals remind me of indie rock, while the music almost strikes me as new wave. While I'm not a huge fan of either of those categories of rock, this somehow works for me. The vocals sound so sincere while the music never leaves the up-beat dream state it comes in on. The vocals join in on the new wave aspect with a deep processor over top during the bridge creating another strong texture when the clean vocals take back over.

Then comes the controversial "Stuck on You," cover by Paramore. The controversy stems from the fact that, let's face it, Paramore don't really have anything in common with these other bands. Failure's sound is not a primary or relevant influence in their sound, but they have been known to regularly cover the song. Their typical sound, for those that haven't heard them, is more of a pop-punk style that borrows bits from emo as well. With that said, some people felt the song didn't belong on the album, but the reality is, Paramore are a big name with a large audience. A tribute album without a single major level artist will fall far into obscurity pretty much from the moment it is released. Including Paramore allows for a better shot at reaching a new generation of Failure fans. It also gives a much wider audience to the many great bands on this CD who deserve success of their own. Paramore's cover is, well, interesting. The singer, a woman, has lowered the pitch of her voice to be closer to Ken's, and sounds best when being doubled over with her regular voice. If younger kids can get into Failure because of this track, then great, I'm all for it. Catch the Sun bring another dream like haze with their version of "Blank". Bubbling synth keys trickle throughout the song, accompanied first by only the emotionally delivered vocals. After the first chorus the programmed drums and some harmonic guitar playing layer in. True to the original, as the song progresses further and further, the layers become thicker, heavier, and more dense. While I think a lot of the original's appeal was in the bleakness (which is now completely gone), this version captures the essence in the layering towards the end.

The mighty and menacing take on "Heliotropic" comes next by B.L. Barakus. They capture the perfect feeling of outer space creepiness from the original with slow shifting notes and a very heavy hitting rhythm section. This is a song where you can really lose yourself in its trance like quality. This song kicks into a calming fury during the hook, and contains the greatest example of Failure's atmospheric abilities while remaining heavy and enjoyable. Easily one of the most rewarding tracks on the album with its enormous spaced out sound that leaves you stuck in its grasp. "Daylight," another Failure track that tends to feel that way, is covered on the tribute by Solare. While the opening notes are the same with that backwards effect as the original, the guitar that quickly comes in, in this case, is accompanied by an acoustic. Together with an easy melodic vocal line, they create what seems to be a quieter, more gentle version of the track. After the second chorus however, they rip into the loud sonic blast of feedback filled guitar layering this song needs and loves. The change in texture is more dramatic than the original and it sounds great. These two songs back to back create an epic feeling to the tribute in the same way they helped make Fantastic Planet what it was.

"Petting the Carpet," comes next by Tablets of Orion. These guys have since broken up, forming Orion and Beta Lyrae, but are certainly welcome on the album. They deliver a hard hitting distortion packed version of this Failure b-side from "Golden". 30 Fathom Grave, maybe the heaviest band on the compilation, bring their version of "Wet Gravity". This song is made over with a dark industrial feel to it, mixing the influences of Nine Inch Nails and Failure to very positive results. This song has a pounding rhythm and enough distortion to tear paint off walls, and shows yet another side of Failure's influence on a great new up-and-coming band. Planet ID are the final submission, with their version of "Muffled Snaps". This is the only song covered from Failure's first album, "Comfort," back when their sound was far more raw, and Planet ID keep it just that way. Fantastic piercing guitars cut through the mix while strengthening the returning melody of the hook.

Bonus tracks include Stemage's cover of "Undone," Satellite Tragedy's cover of "Pennies," and The Company We Keep's cover of "Stuck on You." These are all great tracks, just further showing the depth of influence Failure left on these bands, and the promising and extraordinary future alternative space rock should enjoy.

The album is available for sale at Pop-Up Records website, and should be available at most digital music retailers very soon. You can also check it out on their Myspace page, Failure Tribute.

A noble cause to honor the criminally underrated Failure, and an even more noble cause donating the proceeds from this album to the Save the Music Foundation. I want to personally thank and congratulate Larry (of B.L. Barakus), the creator of the tribute. Not only did he assemble this compilation, introduce all these great bands to a like-minded audience, he also found a home for it at Pop Up Records. Finding these bands was just the beginning, even with all the submitted tracks, I have to give praise to his ordering of the tracks. The sequencing of the album sounds great and is almost along the impeccable flow of Fantastic Planet. He didn't stop there however, as he also gave Orion a deal with the label as well. Also thanks for more excellent great cover art and booklet design from Orion's Brad Chancellor. I think we have a lot to look forward to from Larry and Pop Up Records in the future. If you like the songs you've heard, please go check these bands out, show your support, and enjoy the music. Look out for an upcoming split release between B.L. Barakus featuring the vocals of Satellite Tragedy and Beta Lyrae's Nate, formerly of Tablets of Orion.


GearTrap said...

This blog is killer!

Failure rules!!!

[e] said...

kinda underwhelming, much like every failure album not named magnified