Funeral for a Friend - Memory & Humanity
Record Label: Join Us/Victory/Roadrunner
Release Date: October 13, 2008
In my review of Welsh band FFAF's debut album some of the things I said about the Welsh came across wrong and offended a few people. I certainly apologize for this; all I intend with my reviews is to try to introduce people to music they may not have heard, and stimulate discussion on the subject. Apparently I'm not as funny as I hoped to be, and the comments fell rather flat. So baring that in mind, I think I should point out that Wales has been represented in every single rugby World Cup, in 2008 became the first country to be given Fairtrade status and finished 7th in the world in the 2005 culinary World Cup. After all I'm thoroghly in support of balance.
So on to the next British review in this little series, and I've chosen FFAF's most recent release, Memory & Humanity, purposefully leaving out Hours and Tales Don't Tell Themselves because they're already represented elsewhere on the site. The title of the album is an excellent indicator of both the album's style and theme, as well as a strong lesson on life. In terms of Memory we must always be aware of where we have come from, and how it got us here; and it is the nature of Humanity to always strive to improve ourselves and aim for more. This is a perfect reflection on this particular album. On Tales Don't Tell Themselves FFAF were criticized by many for straying too far from their original heavy sound. In some aspects, Memory & Humanity is a call back to their earlier work. The instrumentation on several tracks, such as the introduction to "Rules and Games" is just as strong as their debut album, and the musical backing on "Waterfront Dance Club" is positively brutal, this also being one of the few songs to feature some minimal screaming.
But this is not a band stuck in the past. Throughout every single one of their albums, FFAF have attempted to grow and develop their sound. The sound on Memory & Humanity is certainly far more polished than before, and to a level that is nearly sublime in its showcasing. The music is not stuck in one particular genre either, with the band instead focusing on creating a generally strong sounding rock album. It is not quite as diverse as some of their contemporaries such as Fightstar or Biffy Clyro, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of where they once were, and where many people still are.
It's hard to fully explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of this album as a whole. The issue that holds this album back from a higher mark is not so much any one aspect, but the consistency of all the different aspects in combination. It seems that in expanding their sound and releasing a new album in little over a year, FFAF hadn't quite become comfortable with it, and as such the song-writing swings wildly from outstanding to poor. For example, the ballad "Building" is dull and dreary, and lacks the sentiment or insight to truly move the listener, "You Can't See The Forest For The Wolves" has no truly strong hook, and the musical background on "Ghosts" is far too understated for my liking. But when they hit their stride, the songs are truly phenomenal. "Kicking and Screaming" is wonderfully catchy and contains some brilliantly constructed lyrics such as 'my love is exploitation, not a passing celebration and I don't wanna feel like a part of history.' "To Die Like Mouchette" captures the bleakness of it's cinematic inspiration (search wikipedia for Mouchette if you're interested) while maintaining an earnest form of hope which borders on pleading. My highest praise, however, is saved for the majesty that is "Waterfront Dance Club", and especially it's chorus. I defy anyone with a true love of music to not desperately want to climb onto a rooftop and bellow the lyrics out to the world when the second chorus kicks in.
The lyrics deserve their own special mention as even the weaker songs have some insightful or clever lyrics. Similarly, Matt Davies' voice is stronger than it ever has been, as is the musicianship, most noticeable on the delightful intro riff of "Beneath The Burning Tree." In fact I can't really say that any of the aspects I'm asked to rate over on the left hand side are truly poor. It's just the consistency of the songs that drags it down. For every brilliant song, there's one that leaves you relatively unmoved. But FFAF are a band seemingly in constant evolution, and if there's one thing we've learned about evolution, it's that it's a thoroughly messy business.