Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Fierce & The Dead is this close to being great

August 24, 2011

Albums can generally be categorized into four groups: great and up, bad and below, average and almost great. This last category is the hardest to review; for every negative, I want to write in two positives (even when this is mathematically and realistically impossible). Furthermore, I want to point out all the negatives so that bands can improve just the little bit more they need to break over the top. The Fierce & The Dead’s If It Carries On Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe is almost great, and it’s killing me.

The British post-rock group’s flaw is that it can competently play almost every style of post-rock there is, from romantic melancholy (“The Wait”) to dissonant and abrasive thrash (“Landcrab”) to indie-rock (“10×10”) to pensive build pieces (“Andy Fox,” which also has bonus sax, Empty Space Orchestra-style). The members’ impressive instrumental talents ensure that there are no individual pieces to knock, but the collection falls a tad bit short in terms of constructing a complete album. I don’t want ten copies of “The Wait,” but the flow of the album is weird.

See how depressing that sounds? Let’s recap:This album is really good, but the members of the band need to buckle down and figure out what they’re telling us. The band does tend to lean more toward the minimalist/pensive side, but the moods of those pieces range from the aforementioned romantic to “eerie horror movie” (“Woodchip”). On the one hand, it shows off their skills and creates some really interesting music; on the other, it’s hard to contextualize the whole album.

(side note: “The Wait,” which you will by now notice is my favorite tune here, sounds like this sketchbook looks [warning: one piece is NSFW])

Here’s another way of looking at this: as individual songs, The Fierce & The Dead have written approximately eight solid-to-amazing post-rock singles. (I know that’s not a real thing, but it’s for the sake of argument.) If you’re not the album type, pick at random (unless it’s “Woodchip” or “Hotel No. 6,” which are more sound experiments than songs), and you’ll really enjoy what you hear.

I have a feeling that with one more album under the band’s belt, The Fierce & The Dead is going to be something amazing. Right now it’s a B+. I know my critique doesn’t make it look like a B+, but man — I want to see this band take the next step really bad. I think they can do it. And that’s why it looks harsh.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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