Review Summary: FCKYRHED is very much a success for 1994!. It features more mature song writing and production in comparison to 2009's "Thank You Arms and Fingers" while still maintaining the fun and enjoyable nature of the band.
1994! are a two piece hailing from Lancaster, PA playing a mixture of math-rock, emo and post-hardcore. Being from Pennsylvania and playing mathy emo might cause immediate comparisons to Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader and while you wouldn't be too far off (Members of Snowing and 1994! even sharing a band called Boyfriends), the aesthetics and atmosphere of 1994!'s music are quite different. From the opening feedback of album opener "King Kong Stompin' Man" to the moment the guitar and drums hit, it's apparent that 1994! is heavier and more technical than their counterparts, while straying from the Kinsella worship. While "heavier" and "emo" might sound like the recipe for... You guessed it, screamo(!), 1994!'s consistently upbeat and very playfully aggressive nature as perfectly evident in "King Kong Stompin' Man"'s structure and outro keep them somewhere in the middle.
"The tension mounts but I remain crippled by the weight of each passing day. Sometimes things are so achingly beautiful"
The song structures within the first half of FCKYRHED are typically frantic, filled with mathy and crunchy guitar work loaded with pull offs from vocalist/guitarist Chris while his vocals very much take a backseat to the instrumentation. Complimenting the frantic performance of the guitars perfectly is Mike on drums who gives stellar performances on tracks like the fill heavy "Shut Up the *** Up" and impressive snare and cymbal work on "A+ Brain". Not every song flys by in a fury of noodle riffs and crazy drum work though. The band certainly knows when to throw in a slow moment to let the listener catch a breath of air. "Shut Up the *** Up" slows things down during the first half of the album and album highlight "Thank All You Guy Helpening" and "Damn You's" give the second half of the album it's breathing room. Chris belts out in a very sing-a-long manner "I don't want to die for the wrong reasons or far too early... I can't deliberate on the nature of gifts, because isn't it gift enough to live half way decent if only for a few days?" over melancholy chords on "Thank All You Guy Helpening" and it's these sincere and slower moments that keep the album from being one noted.
Although there are vocals on FCKYRHED, they certainly aren't the focus. Chris' bellows and screams are placed quite low in the mix to allow most of the emphasis to be placed on the guitar work and the drumming. While that is certainly a sound idea, it does raise a few problems. Firstly, despite the guitars and drums being mixed quite well with each other, there is a noticeable lack of bass on the record and that "oomph" really only appears when chords are briefly being playing or with the vocals lower frequencies. Secondly, having all of the focus on the instrumentation leads to the realization that a vast majority of the riffs sound near identical to one another. Many of the songs feature near identical rhythms and use the same exact chords and notes just played in a different manner. The drumming and vocals try to distract you from this fact, but due to the lack of bass to add diversity and the vocals low prominence in the mix it becomes a glaring flaw.
Despite these obvious flaws, FCKYRHED is very much a success for 1994!. It features more mature song writing and production in comparison to 2009's "Thank You Arms and Fingers" while still maintaining the fun and enjoyable nature of the band. Thanks in part to 1994! only featuring two members, the bands prolific nature of releasing material can only lead to more growth (and certainly experimentation with follow up "*** It").