Review Summary: A great return to form after the lacklustre Tales Don't Tell Themselves.
As much as I try to give bands second chances after poor records, I couldn't help but feel sceptical towards Funeral For a Friend's latest album, Memory and Humanity
. After all, it's been years since the band has released an album that has come out and impressed me right away – though recently I haven come to enjoy Hours
. 2007's Tales Don't Tell Themselves
was one of the most disappointing albums of the year, and given that it's hardly been a year since that hit stores, you'll have to forgive me for worrying that Memory and Humanity
would sound nothing more than a rushed variant of the same record.
So I was pleasantly surprised after actually hearing the album. Memory and Humanity
almost totally disregards its predecessor's drivel, and instead establishes itself as the true successor to Hours
. For the most part, it's a far cry from Funeral For a Friend's post-hardcore roots, though "Ghosts" and "You Can't See the Forest For the Wolves" are the closest the band gets to Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation
. After a deceptively soft acoustic segment opens the latter, guitarists Kris Coombs-Roberts and Darran Smith launch into the most aggressive riff heard in a Funeral For a Friend song in nearly five years. The song isn't as technical as a "10:45 Amsterdam Conversations" or "Escape Artists Never Die", and is centred around a tight rhythm section rather than intricate guitar harmonies. Matt Davies contributes to the downcast, conflicted atmosphere with his melodic singing style and high pitched shouts of "Television tells me one thing / brain tells me something else" and "Give me something to believe!" The only real constant in Funeral For a Friend's sound, Davies can certainly carry a tune, and while charges of whininess have been levied against him in the past, he manages to avoid the trite clichés that hinder many of his contemporaries.
Oddly enough, especially for a band named Funeral For a Friend, the majority of the remainder of Memory and Humanity
is an uplifting endeavour. Single "Kicking and Screaming" is a retrospective appraisal of growing up, as well as life in general. Davies croons "We all go out like we came in / kicking and screaming", serving as the backdrop to the sentimental melodies that intertwine themselves throughout the song, particularly its soaring chorus. It isn't a highlight, but it’s a catchy, driving piece and an all around fun listen all the same. Similarly introspective is "Maybe I Am?". Davies' soul-searching makes for a darker, more serious listen; however, it retains a sense of hope and optimism through its melodious song structure. The song utilizes its (mostly) soft/hard dynamics to the fullest; the verses' self questioning lyrics are accentuated by jangling guitars and brief blasts of distortion, while the confidence exuded during the chorus is complimented by upbeat, bombastic riff schemes. To put it simply, "Maybe I Am?" is not only one of the most memorable songs on Memory and Humanity
, but one of the best songs the band has recorded in some time.
In "You Can't See the Forest For the Wolves", Funeral For a Friend asks for "something that is real" and after the lacklustre Tales Don't Tell Themselves
, it essentially sums up Memory and Humanity
in a nutshell. The band has previously commented on how being free from major label constraints helped ease the writing process along, and the results speak for themselves. Memory and Humanity
is the most organic, free flowing record they've released since Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversations
. It isn't without its weaker moments; "Building" is a neat little ballad, but could have been fleshed out a little more, and "Beneath the Burning Tree" is extremely cringe worthy, save for the chorus, which isn't good enough to warrant listening to the rest of the song. Fortunately, anthemic cuts like "Someday the Fire" and the heavier "Waterfront Dance Club" get things back on track almost immediately, with little momentum lost. Overall, Memory and Humanity
is a great return to form for the Welsh rock band, and though it doesn't top Casually Dressed
, fans of the band should definitely be pleased.