Fang Island – Fang Island

I know every comparison I’m about to draw to possibly describe Fang Island’s debut album is inevitably going to sound insulting to this Providence-based quintet, but here goes. Take every technically virtuosic, yet ultimately mediocre American instrumental band you’ve ever heard open up for some better-known prog rock veteran that actually has a vocalist and give them the seraphic spaciousness of Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear and the dignified sense of direction of Win Butler. Or rather, take every melodramatic indie rock band that’s ever lightly mused about ostensibly heavy material like death and sunsets and the indefatigable passage of time and give them a couple months’ worth of how-to-play-guitar-like-Bill-Kelliher lessons. Whichever of those sounds the least offensive is probably as apt a description as any for Fang Island.

Of course, if your stomach churned merely at the description of that kind of band, then you’re probably not gonna enjoy Fang Island. Yes, this music is dramatic, perhaps overly so, and if you resent indie rock for this, you’ll probably resent indie “metal” just as much. To put it simply, Fang Island has got more “woo-hoos” than the Blur section of a The Best of Brit-Rock CD. Many people, fan and hipster alike, I included, resented 30 Seconds to Mars for becoming a U2 cover band in 2009 with all their grandiose “it’s a small world” vocalizations, but more so than that did I resent the fact that past all the pompous “choruses singing choruses,” there wasn’t much else at work behind This is War; just a whole lot of ego.

This here is different. Look over all the singers on platforms practically screaming out landscapes and you’ll see some hefty instrumentation. Fang Island manages to pull off all the pomp and melodrama in all its self-indulgences without stifling the listener with an over-bloated image of itself. And it may be the band’s technical prowess that inevitably allows it to do so. Frankly, with all the tremolo picking and delicious hard rock riffage captured in the record’s brief 30 minutes, it’s hard not to believe them initially when the “oooooohh-aaaaaahh-ooooohh” chorus practically screams at you “We’re the best band in the world.”

The cover art may look like a DIY mistake the likes of Sebadoh or Wavves, but the music is a hearty amalgam of the strongest points of rock acts as variegated as Yes, Baroness, the Beach Boys, the Animal Collective, and Scale the Summit. Within the first couple seconds of opener “Dream of Dreams,” you’ll hear what clearly sounds like fireworks in the distance, then a refrain with choir-like vocals pulled straight from the 70’s, complete with an organ. Now as silly as such a display sounds at the moment, you’ll understand how much of an understatement it really is once the riffs on “Careful Crossers” begin. With so much glorious instrumentation, the poppier moments on “Treeton,” “Sideswiper,” or “Life Coach” might feel almost excessive, yet they are inextricably crucial to the overall utopian tone of the record. Fang Island is beautiful to the point where the record’s brevity feels almost like a betrayal. At 30 minutes, it leaves you feeling invigorated, yet not entirely satisfied.

Even while Fang Island is such an excellent standalone record, it practically begs that the promising potential on this record be fulfilled in the band’s near future. But it never hurts to indulge in the moment’s riches while we wait for the next. The members themselves insisted that they wanted their self-titled to sound like “everyone high-fiving everyone” and that’s exactly what everyone would do if they got the chance to listen to this; that is, everyone except the members of the band, as they’re too busy shredding.

by Mason “Can’t hear you over the amps and handclaps” McGough

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1 Comment

  1. New Review! Fang Island – Fang Island « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Fang Island – Fang Island, by Mason McGough […]

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