6 things about myself that this album proves to me:
1. I am a 90s boy.
This sounds like “Alternative.” By which i mean like Big Shiny Tunes 2. Every song on here sounds like a 1997 conception of what the mainstream would see as edgy. It’s more of a “sound” than a setting, though the setting is right too! Basic instruments, each with their own space in the mix, with the vocals dead in the middle and the treble about two notches higher than the bass. Sounds like being at some cool kid’s house in tenth grade and thinking he was so cool because he had mix CDs of bands that were cooler (but not too much cooler) than the bands on Much Music. Plus, fuck layers of synths, 80s drum machines, R&B wailing, and anything unknowingly cornball.
2. I am a sucker for hooks.
Really, the measure of whether I care about a song is the extent to which it sticks in my forebrain, and I enjoy listening to this because, no matter what else, these guys have a nose for putting hooks everywhere. Nearly every song on here has at least a couple hooks, and often in strange places – memorable repeated drum fills, codas, the way a baseline rides a drum line. They were better at writing breakup songs than they are here at tackling 30-something ennui, but anything can be forgiven with enough hooks hooks hooks. Try to get that line about being trapped in a collapsing building out of your head once you hear it – zounds that’s catchy, and out of nowhere! I still have “Call Me Maybe” stuck in my head from last summer.
3. I am a sucker for big singles.
The big problem here is that there are no huge breakouts that tower above the rest. There’s about ten “very good” songs, but zero that rise above that. And damnit, those are the ones that really matter, this isn’t baseball, where you can lack superstars but have a bunch of good players and still make the playoffs. The last album wasn’t very good on the mode, but the singles live on in my hard drive forever – this is a much better album overall, but there’s no “Living In Colour” or “Nothing Like You.” The best might be the lead single, “State Hospital,” but that’s because it’s a very impressive song (dem lyrics!), not because it’s stupid catchy.
4. I like Scottish accents.
Not the least because I can correctly call it a “brogue.” But really, it makes every song have a bit of subliminal greatness. And occasionally liminal, but usually it’s just an air of yes that makes the occasional dull verse a bit better.
5. I’m an emo little man.
I miss the constant references to drinking to excy ess. I like the constant references to unhappiness to excess. Other than “State Hospital” (aww, poor people!), and the “Housing” mini-songs (aww, urbanity!), I can’t really be bothered with much else. I’m over the lack of breakup songs, but that’s probably my lengthy current relationship talking. I really want to love the Modest Mousey self-deprecating song, though it just isn’t catchy enough to make up for its rather simple self-deprecation. And it’s nice and all that FR are trying to write songs about people other than the lead singer’s personal experiences, but those songs have to work harder to pique my appreciation, due to the fact that see above.
6. I love shitty songs, but on random compilations.
This album is about four songs too long. Those songs should be fucked like the worthless whores that they are. Come on, there’s no way that they didn’t know that “If You Were Me” and “December’s Traditions” are fairly crap.
7 / 10