Review Summary: A more melodic alt-rock feel will see the band lose some fans & be accused of selling out, but good music is good music and there is simply no filler on this very much recommended album.
When writing opinion pieces, there is the occasional instance when one simply has to stand their ground, no matter how large the (pardon the nautical pun) tidal wave against you is. In my situation, these instances usually come with bands of a certain genre refining their sound into one which is more accessible to the mainstream. Does this make an album immediately average" I think not, simply different to before and, maybe more importantly, different to what fans of the band expect. To a lot of longtime (and some casual) fans, this will usually mean that the terribly faddy and overused term of “selling out” will be brought up. At the end of the day, good music is good music… Simple as that! ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves’, the 3rd album by Welsh band Funeral For A Friend, is definitely an example of this.
For a musical group that has only existed for 6 years, Funeral For A Friend (FFAF) sure have reinvented themselves throughout their lifetime. While their early EPs and debut album literally screamed post-hardcore, the band has cut down on their rougher edges with each passing album, resulting in a more melodic alternative-rock feel. While the group has had a little mainstream success, especially in the United Kingdom, they have not been super successful. The main reason for this is that for the most part they do not rely on strong and catchy choruses, instead choosing to concentrate more on their music. With this album however, FFAF appear to have purposefully aimed for more of a balance between the 2 aspects.
I have never been a great fan of an album beginning with its best track. That occurs here, but there may be some method to the choice of ‘Into Oblivion (Reunion)’ as the opener. It’s a clear statement that is quite simply the best single of the band’s entire catalogue. Furthermore, it sums up the album very well; Accessible & melodic rock with a lush sound that makes good use of guitars. It’s also catchy and memorable which is something the band have lacked in the past. Another reason for this song’s placement as the first track could arguably be from a lyrical standpoint. You see, this album is one of the growing number of concept albums flooding the market these days. It has a nautical theme and tells the story of a fisherman shipwrecked out at sea after being ravaged by a storm. It is a gimmick that admittedly has its pros & cons. The main pros being band focus & potential listener involvement, while the main con is repetition (especially lyrically).
A further reason for the placement of the best track and 1st single as the album’s opener is for structure purposes. This is because it is arguable that the other standouts from this LP are its accompanying bookend at the end of the “tale”, as well as the 2 track mid-album break of sorts. Following 3 radio-friendly pop-rock sing-alongs that all stand well enough on their own occupying the spots of tracks 2 to 4, we get what is the first part of the ‘All Hands On Deck’ duo. This is sub-titled ‘Raise The Sail’ and is a terrific up-tempo rocker that is turned on its head with a super effective string arrangement. The 2nd half (track 6) sub-titled ‘Open Water’ is a little less effective in isolation, but flows well from the previous track, while also foreshadowing the rockier vibe that is to come with the next couple of songs. In fact, the following track, ‘Out Of Reach’ is easily the closest thing to the band’s hardcore past, but the fact that it remains accessible is a credit to the band.
When the poppy and catchy 2nd single ‘Walk Away’ floats on by as the penultimate track of the album, it is easy to think that FFAF may be out of tricks, as it is the most straight-forward song on the album. However, that cannot be further from the truth due to the amazing six and a half minute closer ‘The Sweetest Wave’. Beginning methodically with piano, emotional vocals and atmospheric bass, it uses an orchestral arrangement to build up to a gorgeous and grandiose crescendo that isn’t afraid to rock things up with guitar to match the strings. Very ambitious, this track really is a terrific summation of the album as a whole and is a statement that Funeral For A Friend have no boundaries and can achieve anything they set their mind to musically!
If I was to state the main reason for my like of this album, it would simply be that there is no filler. While some tracks obviously stand above others, it would not surprise to see any of the 10 songs released as a single. For that reason, and also due to the perception of some repetition, the band was wise in keeping the LP at 10 tracks (totaling 41 minutes).
While the intricate layers of the dual guitar attack from earlier recordings is not as prevalent here, the under-rated guitar playing of Kris Coombs-Roberts is still what drives most songs. The use of orchestral arrangements on some tracks more than make up for any steps back in the sound department, while lead vocalist Matt Davies has adapted sufficiently to the more melodic tunes and can hopefully improve even further on future efforts. Very much recommended, Funeral For A Friends’ “Tales Don’t Tell Themselves” is an album full of quality songs that should appeal to a rather large audience. It’s just a matter of that audience knowing the band exists in the first place.
Recommended Tracks: Into Oblivion (Reunion), The Sweetest Wave, All Hands On Deck: Raise The Sail & The Great Wide Open.