Review Summary: Unique yet accessible, grand yet intimate, Furious Angels is an amazing blend of trip-hop, cinematic orchestra and rugged, angst-filled vocals.
How often does a truly unique artist come along, really? The question is about as hard to answer as it is cliché. Modern music has made it simultaneously difficult and relatively simple to find original bands, with the sheer number of artists providing this strong contradiction. It can be hard to find Mars Voltas and Godspeed You! Black Emperors when so many Jets and Breaking Benjamins get in the way. Before you point out how cliché this entire paragraph is, I agree, but the point I need to make is that Rob Dougan is a truly unique music artist.
Dougan is somewhat of a hard man to pin down – or at least if you’re hoping to describe him with one genre. On the one hand, many of the songs feature trip-hop-like drumbeats, and a few feature samples as well (“There’s Only Me” even begins with a quick record scratch). Rob, however, hates being associated with electronic music*, and his love of classical music plays a somewhat stronger role in his only album to date, Furious Angels
, as well as the song that was released seven years earlier, “Clubbed to Death”.
“Clubbed to Death” is not only the most well known track, but also a perfect example of Dougan’s songwriting and/or compositional talent. Starting with a lone string intro, it then launches into the main section of the song – an interesting drumbeat underneath somber and subtle strings. He then adds layer upon layer of piano, samples, and more strings, always at just the right time to keep any one segment from getting boring. It’s for this reason that the instrumental bonus disc is quite good by itself, but listening to just that
means you’re missing out on one of Furious Angels
’ most important elements: Dougan’s voice.
Listening to Furious Angels
without the vocals is like going to a self-help seminar for the free snacks: yeah, you’re getting something out of it, but you’re missing the real point. A bit like In the Wee Small Hours
for the modern age, Furious Angels
presents the image of a man broken and beaten, but not ready to give up (or at least initially). While the lyrics themselves are nothing to write home about, the delivery almost always fits the emotion(s) any particular song perfectly. Take this passage from “Left Me For Dead”:
”And I say I won’t stop, no, ‘til hell is your home
There’s nowhere to hide (no nowhere)
You’ll feel the cold of my gun at your head
Ah, you left me for dead”
The man sounds genuinely angry here, like he’s literally ready to seek revenge on whoever wronged him. In “There’s Only Me”, he sounds depressed, and save a few weak vocal moments (actually confined to the two aforementioned tracks), Dougan’s rough, gravelly voice seems like an obvious highlight. Lastly, there is a rough but noticeable storyline presented: the title track signals the end of a romantic relationship, “Left Me For Dead” finds him bitter and angry, “There’s Only Me” warns his former lover about the end of her new relationship, “Speed Me Towards Death” asks for death to come, and “One And The Same” finally brings them back together.
It’s hard to think of many albums that sound even partially similar to this, and I’m quite confident that isn’t just because of my unfamiliarity with music like this. A brilliant blend of trip hop, electronica, and classical, Furious Angels
is not only unique, it’s pretty much jaw-dropping at times. Even the weakest track, the aptly titled “Drinking Song” - which literally sounds like someone playing a barroom piano – succeeds because of his strong voice and string finale. Unique yet accessible, epic yet intimate, Furious Angels
is something that shouldn’t be missed.
I’m Not Driving Anymore
Clubbed to Death
Speed Me Towards Death