Fake Problems - It's Great To Be Alive
Record Label: SideOneDummy
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Time to throw away your steel-toed boots and put on your dancing shoes, punk kids. Unless of course, that's what you choose to dance in, then I sincerely apologize. Just lace 'em up tight, and prepare to groove to your heart's content, because if you think punk got a big rejuvenation in 2008, then 2009 might be your year to put more patches on those flannel corduroys. Or change them entirely. Just saying... I mean, it is nearly ten years into the new century.
That's right, the au-natural orgcore genre is getting a makeover with Naples, Florida residents, Fake Problems, who has combined some retro music styles (folk, disco, Chamber music, opera and punk) into the positively reaffirming treat, It's Great To Be Alive. Throaty vocals, horn sections (arranged by Look Mexico's Matt Agrella), gypsy-country-disco (?) and lyrical daggers of sarcastic charm bring this quirky collection to life, which should make a well-enough impression to reel in fans normally not won over by the ranks of Against Me or Murder by Death.
Composed of an operatic tone that rings with a flirtatious delivery of a preacher on high from vocalist Chris Farren that's somewhere between Tom Gabel and Isaac Brock, the record is a fluid construct of gospel-tinged notions with an ironic edge to it all, assisted by producer A.J. Mogis (Cursive). "1234" segues into "The Dream Team," which is like a Chuck Berry/Bruce Springsteen duet on acid, jazzy piano and handclaps playing over the massive hook that celebrates the joy of patriotism with an orgcore flair. Farren gets all disco on us with "You're a Serpent, You're a She-Snake," a song that sounds like a mash-up of Billy Idol and the Eurythmics, painting a hypnotic finale that's sort of the punk version of "A Day In The Life," whirling into a flourishing splash of orchestral psychedelia. "Level With the Devil" plays like a rejected Disney musical number, Farren's raspy howl at it's absolute peak, both haunting & enchanting at once. Petitioning his lust for his own version of sin, he sings, "Watch out for the devil ... these songs that I've been writing / Are the only thing that keep me turned away from evil."
That's the best compliment to give this album, a major creative boost from the band's full-length debut, How Far Our Bodies Go: it never really sticks to formula, opting for a sound that's sardonic and tongue-in-cheek, effortlessly blending styles into something that people who enjoy all musical styles can become attached to. There are equal parts Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Jack White and even Barry Gibb in Farren's outlandish wail, with Casey Lee's chaotic guitar keeping up and matching wits. Accompanied by plenty of background noise, it helps that Sean Stevenson (drums) and Derek Perry (bass) keep it all grounded without any erratic rhythms, maintaining the balance of the entire record.
It's Great To Be Alive offers so much variety in its sound that by the time the record is closing up shop, it runs the gamut on ideas and techniques, using up its canon in the first half, which plays like a big fancy pirate opera you'd like to see on "Sesame Street" (you heard me -- "Don't Worry Baby" is no Beach Boys cover, my friends). "The Heaven & Hell Cotillion" is cliche folk-punk with some odd yodeling that doesn't match much of the prior territory, and "Diamond Rings" has an interweaving riff that may sound just a little too much like it was stolen from Modest Mouse's "Float On" or Against Me's "Stop". Horn-drenched "Alligator Assassins" has a ton of rockabilly energy, but again, its passion and direction feel out of place in the middle of everything. "Too Cold Too Hold" brings some of the momentum to a halt, playing like a drunken sailor's limerick before getting into the album's wonderful final song, which is a better version of the previous one, building into an uplifting singalong of Born to Run proportions.
Horn sections, chime interludes, various harmony breaks and disco-bass breakdowns -- the one question you have to truly ask yourself about Fake Problems is, what style do they have yet to throw into their record booth blender? The band is a plethora of inspirations, taking parts of many different artist, yet make this album into their own unique & diverse sound. Time to stop the moshing and break out the velvet suits, because Fake Problems? Yeah, they came to preach the word of groove-oriented punk. Ya dig?
This was a questionable buy for me especially with April two months away, having both Devine and Manchesters new cd's in that month but you encouraged me to buy this. I've always enjoyed Fake Problems but I don't know if this cd will be better than Off With Your Heads From the Bottom. Hope it is.
Def not better than From the Bottom, but not much else recently is. Great review. I think the rating is a bit high, but a good listen all around. They are def improving, I just don't know how much lasting power it has.