Far-Less - A Toast to Bad Taste Released October 23rd, 2007
Tooth & Nail Records
“Three cheese panini! Uhhhmmerr…number 677.”
The Landmark Diner.
The only restaurant I know of that already has a five o’clock shadow after only being in business for a little more than a month. Nevertheless, it’s conveniently located directly next to my dorm and is a decent choice for getting a quick bite to eat -- and in this case: lounging in a booth with a laptop, headphones, and a drink from the dispensable cappuccino machine. French Vanilla. I can faintly hear what sounds like a surf rock hip-hop song of sorts from the speakers above me. Far-Less’s “A Thin Line” luckily drowns most of it out. God forbid the Beastie Boys sought out the Beach Boys for collaboration or something. It’d be interesting to see what that project would be called, though. I’ve been sitting here for what seems like an hour; time spent skipping around A Toast to Bad Taste (the latter band’s newest release and follow-up to the well-received Everyone Is Out to Get Us) nibbling on cold French fries, and watching the dull ebb/flow of hungry eighteen year-olds lining up behind the register directly adjacent to me. As a train of dykey softball players clamor into sight and Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” drunkenly stammers into earshot from outside my headphones, Far-Less becomes a haven of sorts from the bleak diner politics around me. And for being a staunchly straightforward rock album (read: not what you’d normally find on my iPod), it’s a rather good listen.
I initially pegged A Toast to Bad Taste as an album that’d get enough of my attention for one listen through and a subsequent shoot-down. Maybe a little post-coital spooning afterwards just to make sure I made the right final-judgment. Yet here I am running it through for a fifth time. The album as a whole is sophisticatedly arranged (interludes, intro, “As Performed By…”) and Far-Less cater to the extra care and embellishments given by exemplifying what it means to be a heroically solid rock band. Songs like “It’s Not Me, It’s You” and “Surprise Funeral (For the Charmed)” are unexpectedly stunning, displaying Brandon Welch’s extraordinary vocal execution, Todd Turner’s watertight backing, and spiraling et epically-drawn guitar orchestration. Even the “segues” (essentially interludes) are nicely put together. Most read like a clip from a Portugal. The Man song, all below a 1:30 and featuring plenty of production sparkle, vocal distortion, but they do their job in making sure the ensuing song is seamlessly introduced.
The band falters here and there, though – this is absolutely not a perfect album after all. The album starts out on an undemanding foot, as “A Toast to Bad Taste” and “I Hope We Swim (Oceans)” are comparatively unimpressive when songs like “A Thin Line” and “It’s Not Me…” follow. “Keep Keep” is relatively stuck in the cliché, despite a pretty incredible chorus. The same goes for “Forever and a Day”; a pretty insignificant track towards the end of A Toast… that slows things down a bit with help from the addition of a piano and violins. “I Gave In”, the final song, barely provides proper closure to an album so intent to read like a storybook. The last minute is superb (“What is valuable to you?” repeated with properly paced snare snaps in tow) but it comes too late in the song to have any real impact. A select few other songs are open for criticism, some more than others, but it’s hard to nitpick when the rest of the album is really damn good.
A couple of trips back to the cappuccino machine and three breaks to listen to The Promise Rings’ “Red Paint” later – I’m as sure I’ve got A Toast to Bad Taste as zeroed in as I’ll get it. Right in time too; the dinner rush has set in and cheeseburgers are being tossed out one after another as if they were the only thing on the menu. Somehow Far-Less make it a more bearable place, though. “We all belong down here/We all belong” hovers gently around my ears as I make my peace with the table I’ve leaned against for the past hour and a half and begin to pack up. The night is young and it seems to have been set in the right direction. Far-Less appears to be the reason. Elegantly thought-out and pieced together with a composure that is heard very rarely nowadays. Cheers! Passionately defined rock ‘n roll that can stand on its own -- now that is something to toast to!
The only bad thing I can really say about the album, apart from the pacing after the inclusion of some of those interludes, is that Ray Felts no longer plays drums for these guys. Granted, his style would be completely wrong for the newer direction they've aquired with ATTBT as a whole, but the dude was nothing short of phenomenal. I'd love to see what he would have done with some of the songs. I only saw him play with them once and I was blown away at his precision...sorry, drum geek rant.
Great job on the review as a whole...the CD didn't leave me as floored as their past efforts, but its not because it is underwhelming in any way. I love Brandon's voice and the attention to detail in the melodies truly pays off.