Review Summary: In which Fang Island loses some of their bite.
Take ‘em or leave ‘em, Fang Island certainly has carved their way into their own unique niche: Feel-good, uplifting, rosy rock songs don’t come by that often, and the band has certainly crafted their own unique sound. After turning heads with their first self-titled LP, the band has since gone through some line-up changes and are back with their sophomore, entitled Major
. Does the band continue the party on their second full-length effort, or are there some hiccups along the way?
Leading up to the release, the band offered several songs for previewing purposes, and they turned out to be some of the most exciting, well-crafted pieces of the album. Upon first listen, one will notice a large, drastic change from the band’s debut, and that is the vocals have changed substantially: not only are they more present in the song structure and the overall sound, but they are also, well, coherent. “Asunder” perfectly portrays this new sound, as the band beautifully progresses their edgy rock riffs under more of a traditional, vocal-based structure. “Sisterly” offers some choppier, almost bluesy rock-a-billy guitar riffs, complete with an abundance of wah-wah, and proves to be one of the catchier songs of the album. Lastly, “Seek It Out” is the heaviest hitter of the album, featuring pounding guitar riffs and catchy choruses.
Beyond this trio, however, the album really suffers from a lack of focus and quality. While intro “Kindergarten” and outro “Victorinian” offer two terrific, stripped-down, piano-driven slices, and “Chompers” offers a nice fast paced outing, nothing else here really captures the cartwheels-with-fireworks-in-the-background, winning-the-lottery type of euphoria that was so prominent on their self-titled. All of “Make Me”, “Never Understand”, “Regalia” and “Chime Out” drags on too long with some very uninteresting riffs and vocal lines, feeling more like demo tracks than full-fledged efforts. Also, “Dooney Rock” is the band’s attempt at mixing a country hoedown with speed metal riffs, but it just comes off as being unfocused. On these songs, the band never really attempts to create something catchy, unique or memorable, and they really don’t give you a reason to go back to listen to them.
But while the album seems to be split 50/50 with some great songs and some boring songs, I feel what is really missing from Major
is the originality and good times that made their self-titled such fun to listen to. For starters, the powerful, quasi-gibberish gang vocals that made their first album so one-of-a-kind is almost completely absent from Major
, and I don’t really understand why, since it was such a big element in the band’s original feel-good sound. Second, and certainly less important, is the fact that the band has gone from a tri-guitar attack on their self-titled to a more common dual-guitar attack on Major
, and I can’t shake the feeling we’re missing out on some more unique third harmony and guitar parts that, again, made the self-titled so appealing.
So is Major
a success? While the sophomore effort certainly does have plenty of bright spots and some of the best songs the band has written, I can’t help but feel that band has taken a step back in terms of creativity, and instead of evolving their creative, unique sound from their first album, really stripped down this time around. I’m sure fans of the band will be split on the preference between the old and the new, but the good news is that, despite your preferences, there is still some terrific songs on Major
to be heard, and one can only hope that the band continues on finding more ways to make their sound more entertaining in the future.