Review Summary: Relying on a blueprint that's inherently flawed is never the best idea.Arrows and Anchors
Maybe this is because I want it to be something else, or because I want Fair to Midland to be someone else. I wish that they'd evolve into the monumental musicians that they clearly want to be, or that they were a couple years ago. The group's latest offering Fables From a Mayfly
was a rousing success from one corner to the next, never failing to rattle and shake, and each song always possessed an air of vitality. The tracks' chorus-oriented nature didn't impact the quality of the less recognizable moments, for even when the lights dimmed the group took their audience away.
Now the ground is shifting between the spectators' feet. Arrows and Anchors
is a complete realization of the flawed concept that all necessary for a powerful song is a powerful chorus. We see it time and time again; "Golden Parachute" has a brilliant chorus, but what exactly took place during the rest of the track? Although I've heard the track several times at this point, I still couldn't say. It certainly doesn't feel new, though, and certainly not vital from a songwriting perspective. It's as if Fair to Midland are paying attention only to their anthemic choruses, and aren't spending much time polishing the less blatant moments in their music. Sure, acoustic guitars emerge occasionally to feign evolution, but the truth is that the only song on Arrows and Anchors
that's memorable is "The Greener Grass". What a closer - for being obscenely long, it does everything right. The song is dreamy throughout its ten-minute runtime, switching between a truly heartfelt chorus and a stirring verse with ease. The song's filled to the brim with importance, as well - a key trait that Arrows and Anchors
lacks as a whole.
The problem surfaces with even the song structures, merely from a superficial standpoint. There's an underlying blueprint at work, a plan that clearly states the uncertain beginnings of each song. Each track is guaranteed to stumble a bit further, and the verse will waddle by awkwardly, but not without Darroh's attempts at recussitation through revamping a commonplace phrase in his lyrics. Regardless of what advice our berserk frontman possesses for cats that happen
to have been killed by curiosity, though, clever wordplay means little alone. Sudderth's faint whisperings means little in "Short-Haired Tornado" when placed alongside a meaningless shuffling drum beat and flippant tambourine, and a guitar riff without proper backup. Then again, everything comes together in the chorus, as if to almost reward the listener for being so patient.
There's nothing wrong with desiring an anthem to bring everyone together. This album's chock-full of them, as well as plenty of quotes that are hard to forget. However, from a structural standpoint Arrows and Anchors
is inherently flawed. The most refreshing parts are the interludes, the lulls that only begin to mix the pot in an exciting direction before disappointingly flickering out. The next time you feel the need to revisit this album, I suggest you take the time to notice each and every turn it takes. There are some highly questionable decisions on Fair to Midland's behalf with this one, and for an album that wants to say so much it certainly doesn't leave a mark.