Fightstar
They Liked You Better When You Were Dead


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
July 8th, 2009 | 14 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When is an EP not an EP? When it's this long, and this good.

Charlie Simpson was in Busted. Fightstar are not Busted.

EPs make a lot of sense. Granted, they made more sense back before CDs were invented and became the single most effective way of packaging music, but they still have their uses now. They're a way for up-and-coming bands to give people an idea of what they're in for - a taste of the future, if you like. And yes, to return for a second to that most banal of topics, given Fightstar's embarrassing beginnings their first offering was undoubtedly more crucial than most bands'. Having said all this, it's impossible to ignore that They Liked You Better When You Were Dead is 40 minutes long, and therefore far less of an appetiser than a main course itself. Not only is it one of the longest debut EPs ever released, its unique brand of passionate pop-hardcore is also one of the most surprising first impressions I've ever heard.

For starters, Amethyst is the best thing they've ever written. Its soft verses float between ambience and beautifully-picked guitars; the chorus, out of nowhere, pummels you with twenty seconds of desperate vocals and breathless drumming. It's a hook like so many present on this record, instantly memorable and confidently executed. Simpson, at the fore of almost everything, sounds raw, passionate and in his comfort zone; Alex Westaway 's vocals, usually secondary, bang on the foreboding wall of crashing guitars that accompany every chorus. The occasional interplay between the two, like near the end of Lost Like Tears In Rain, is immensely effective. The record's best breakdowns and interludes owe their force and quality to a tight rhythm section, particularly Omar Abidi's drums, which consistently propel songs where they would otherwise be in danger of drifting.

It's fair to say there was a severe danger of over-compensating on this record, and placing too much emphasis on the heavier side of things with total disregard for subtlety. While it's certainly true that some of the crushing guitar sections feel slightly forced, though, there's not a single track on When You Were Dead that doesn't benefit from some sort of emotional outpouring; lyrically, it's superb, with lines like "You stumble, through questions, that you could never answer / That barrel, is loaded, so go and paint your target" dotted throughout, and the acoustic, mellow introductions to Cross Out The Stars, Mono and Amethyst help to slow things down in places too. Most of these gentler moments, usually brought about by softer, picked guitars or light cymbal work, are eventually corrected, of course, but they still provide the diversity needed for this record not to become one massive "We're not Busted, honest"-fest.

So how well does When You Were Dead manage to separate itself from what will often be the first point of reference for Fightstar? Well, there's obviously enough to suggest that Simpson was in the wrong place for half a decade, as is evidenced by the harsher vocals he provides and the heavy riffs scattered all over, especially on Speak Up and Palahniuk's Laughter. It almost manages to throw off the Busted shadow completely, but the fact is that it doesn't entirely want to. What makes this album such a breath of fresh air is its poppy side - the catchy choruses, the energetic melodies and the accessibility of a great deal of the material. The combination of grit and beauty is most prominent on Until Then, which morphs from an all-out rocker to a softly crooned middle section and back again, and it's this duality which lends itself to multiple listens. To say that Fightstar's debut EP showed promise or potential would be a disservice - They Liked You Better When You Were Dead is in and of itself a release well worthy of a place on any discerning music-lover's bedroom shelf.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2009


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Are you on holidays or something Adam? You are just churning out the reviews right now... Which is a good thing of course.

Fightstar are literally #1 on my list of bands to listen to that I have literally not heard one song from right now.

Mordecai.
July 9th 2009


8281 Comments


Fucking love Fightstar. Another great review Strikey, you workhorse. These guys are so consistent, and i like the way they let their Muse influence show in later albums. If only Funeral for a Friend could execute this sound as good as Fightstar...

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2009


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Muse... Funeral For A Friend... It's like a pre-programmed Davey hype machine.

TheGoddamnBatman
July 9th 2009


404 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, Adam. I love how this whole record (and its artwork) is Fight Club's inspired.


Mordecai.
July 9th 2009


8281 Comments


Yeah Davey, their last 2 albums definately have a major Muse influence, structurally and intstrumentally, but not vocally. Check out Be Human then work your way back to this

Knott-
Emeritus
July 9th 2009


10198 Comments


haha Davey i've just left Durham uni for the summer, next year is my year abroad so I have no prep work to do whatsoever, I'm waiting on temp hours at the law firm I work at. I have nothing to do except see friends, practice French and listen to music. This only took me half an hour to write though.

Band is fantastic.

SuperDuck
July 9th 2009


327 Comments


If only Funeral for a Friend could execute this sound as good as Fightstar...


They probably did it better in their early days. Then they became real formulaic for some reason.

Mordecai.
July 9th 2009


8281 Comments


tru dat ^^^

thumbcrusher
January 1st 2011


3606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

why isnt this the review that you automatically come to when clicking on this? way better than 'TomMc's' one which is the first one you see at the moment.

speak up owns

thumbcrusher
March 5th 2013


3606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

been listening to this a lot recently, can't get over how good the ending of Palahniuk's is

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
December 31st 2013


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Charlie Simpson leaves Busted behind with a debut EP that masterfully integrates melody & aggression. His & Alex Westaway's grungy vocals emote passion & energy, while the latters guitar-work impressively showcases both hard-hitting riffs & ambience. Lyrically strong & containing great drumming, the under-production hinders the catchy 'Speak Up', but helps the raw 'Palahniuk's Laughter'. Extended from a 5 track 22 minute EP to a 9 track 38 minute one, the better cuts are strangely those which did not make their subsequent LP. Recommended Tracks: Palahniuk's Laughter, Speak Up, Amethyst & Paint Your Target.

DurzoBlint
June 2nd 2014


1195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I miss fightstar.....

thumbcrusher
June 4th 2014


3606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I hope they do something for the 10th anniversary of this

zakalwe
August 5th 2014


8835 Comments


I honestly think Palahniuks Laughter is one of the best songs of the last 10yrs.
Band rules.

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