Further Seems Forever
Penny Black



by nakedmolerat USER (11 Reviews)
October 27th, 2012 | 19 replies

Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's hard to teach old dogs new tricks, but Carrabba and Further Seems Forever have quite alot to speak of for a decade of experience.

The intrigue was palpable from the get-go. The reformation of a band that over the last decade had proven themselves not only as great songwriters but an incredibly cohesive live unit, along with the return of their prodigal lead singer, had the promise of, at the very least, a better-produced version of the raw emotion from The Moon is Down, a tantalizing prospect in itself for fans. As such, Further Seems Forever’s latest had had a considerable stack of expectations weighing on it, and I don’t think I’d be making much of a stretch if I said they delivered in a satisfactory manner.

Over hair-raising electric riffs, semi-progressive drumming and Carrabba’s trademark alt-rock/punk strain of vocals, the band opens with a reassuring return to form with So Cold, the albums requisite single probably strong enough to bend mainstream to its wishes. It is followed immediately by Rescue Trained, which would have been far less relatable if not for the fact that its just so damn energetic. Penny Black begins with a two-pronged offensive with enough punch to herald the band's days of old, with their screamo and punk roots very much in place and kicking.

Let me be the first to note here that it’s ridiculous how young Chris Carrabba looks. Google any image of the band and you’ll notice that most of their members look every amount the seasoned veterans that they are. This simply does not apply to Chris. The man just doesn’t seem to age – you’d think he was the new kid that his band members picked up to be their ace-in-the-hole on their comeback, except for the fact that he’s effing 37 years old. Perhaps years of singing and writing about teenage issues and insecurities has preserved Chris physically in his youth. But fortunately, aside from just looking young, Carrabba proves to be the same vocal powerhouse that he was back when he was 25, with no sign that he'll let up anytime soon.

As such, it’s undeniable that Carrabba’s vocals are the crown jewels of FSF’s latest effort. I’ve always been a huge fan of the man behind the unbridled passion of Dashboard Confessional. Easily one of the most distinct vocalists in alternative rock, Carrabba voice seems immaculately crafted to be the perfect emotion-conveying tool that it is. In the aforementioned Rescue Trained, Carrabba, flanked by steely riffs that are conventional in the most apt way possible, charges headfirst into one of the most ambitious choruses of his career, pushing his voice to that delicate euphoria-inducing point right between strong supported vocals and primal screaming. Though perhaps to a less obvious extent, his vocal ingenuity is evident in King's Canyon with soaring harmonies from a Carrabba-choir that fills a spacious prechorus bridge which leads into a high-tempo chorus, andthe dark acoustic bliss that is the closing track Janie shows his delicate side in its full glory. From his unique open-vowelled enunciation to his ability to switch between a delicate almost-whisper to spine-chilling vocal fry, it is not hard to understand how Chris almost single-handedly steered Dashboard Confessional toward becoming a hallmark of modern emo, and with Penny Black the man delivers in a spectacular fashion.

I mentioned earlier that I’d expected this album to follow in the footsteps of The Moon is Down, and in a sense it did, but not in a manner in which I hoped it would. Although professing a satisfying maturity of their sound, Penny Black falls prey to the biggest issue I had with Moon is Down: an unsettling lack of in-album experimentation. The tracks sound like they were all written over the same period, in the same location, with the same inspiration in mind, and incredible though their sound may be, the album blends together all too well, especially in its latter half, getting uncomfortably close to forgettable at times.

The lyrics are another precarious issue – they just don’t quite measure up to the stuff the band should be writing about at this point in their career. Having made huge progress in this aspect by acknowledging upfront their beliefs and, consequentially, inspiration, in Hide Nothing with “Light Up Ahead”, FSF seems to have taken a step back with Penny Black. Even (or should I say especially) on Carrabba’s front this is disappointing; having been emotionally wrought, angst-ridden and at times even textbook depressive throughout a good deal of Dashboard Confessional’s lengthy and illustrious discography, Chris’ work in Alter the Ending, with a great deal of spiritual introspection in “Get Me Right” and an unashamed confession in “The Motions”, and even in Dusk and Summer with the haunting post-war trauma “Slow Decay”, showed a penchant for brilliant lyrics under the layers of emo. Unfortunately, in comparison, Penny Black doesn’t quite cut it in this department. That is not to say that their lyrics are inane, for they are by no means unworthy of the songs that carry them, nor are they any less than the standard expected of their genre, it is just marginally disappointing when you know that a band is capable of so much more.

Penny Black is, frankly, unlikely to change the world as we know it, and it’s likely that it’ll get its best recognition only in retrospection; only the few and far in between FSF fans and Dashboard fans anxious for a new release are going to see this album for what it truly is, a very solid piece of work by a band with a reputation far smaller than it deserves. FSF has never sounded more confident that they do coming out of their hiatus, and I have a feeling that many of the artistic shortcomings of this album are due to the fact that the band was simply having too much fun jamming together again and creating good new s**t, and there is no way anyone can fault them for that, for what this album lacks in essence it makes up for in sheer enthusiasm – it’s honestly impossible not to smile when you listen to it. Penny Black will definitely have a place in my iPod for years to come, stored in anticipation for the day FSF lives up to their full potential and blows us all away. Hopefully that day comes soon.

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user ratings (49)

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 27th 2012


really nice review

i couldn't get into this because the vocals are too processed for me

October 27th 2012


Holy shit. I didn't even know this came out. Gonna check out now.

October 27th 2012


I have a feeling this isn't very good.

Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2012


Thanks for reviewing this and nice job. Haven't heard these guys in years

Digging: Langhorne Slim - Lost At Last, Vol 1

October 27th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

haha im so new to this reviewing thing so thanks. sorry if i touched too much on album background.

i didnt really get why they did that to the vocals but it somehow works pretty well on most of the tracks

October 27th 2012


Nice review! Can't say I agree with a lot of your opinions, but it was well written anyway.

October 27th 2012


Album Rating: 2.5

meh, I just cant get past the pitch correction

October 27th 2012


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Album is solid but the pitch correction does annoy me

Great review. Pos'd

October 27th 2012


I just don't like Carrabba as a vocalist. The only CD of theirs I really like is How to Start a Fire.

This is very well written, by the way, especially since it's only your second review. This is the only thing I'm not quite sure I get:

"Though perhaps to a less obvious extent, his vocal ingenuity is evident in King's Canyon with soaring harmonies from a Carrabba-choir that fills a spacious prechorus bridge which leads into a high-tempo chorus, and the chorus of Stem the Loss, and his delicate side is shown in its full glory in the dark acoustic bliss that is the closing track Janie."

I don't quite see what you are going for when mentioning Stem the Loss. If you are saying it's similar to King's Canyon I would just put:

"Though perhaps to a less obvious extent, his vocal ingenuity is evident in King's Canyon and Stem of the Loss with soaring harmonies from a Carrabba-choir that fills a spacious prechorus bridge which leads into a high-tempo chorus, while his delicate side is shown in its full glory in the dark acoustic bliss that is the closing track Janie."

Maybe I'm just not reading it right though, I don't know. That was the only thing I really noticed on first read through.

October 27th 2012


Love the melodies and not much filler

October 27th 2012


Album Rating: 3.0

The pitch correction is unnecessary and takes away quite a bit -- a more raw Carrabba would not only fit the energy and music better, but it would also distract from the repetitive-lyric syndrome. Besides, we all know by now that he's more than capable. I just don't understand that production choice.

And if only the lyrics were just a little bit better. The man's in his 30s, right? He certainly should have something more interesting to say at this juncture, and a lot of the repetition rubs me the wrong way.

That said, the album is very enjoyable regardless.

November 3rd 2012


it's okay I guess

November 13th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

LET'S SET THIS CITY ABLAZE!!!! Jason was a great frontman. Cd is cool...I really enjoy the last track.

November 25th 2012


Album Rating: 2.5

can't get into it

January 24th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0

Listened while driving today, got into it more than I expected.

February 2nd 2013


I heard So Cold and was put off by the pitch correction. I enjoyed Hide Nothing back in the day. Will check out.

October 20th 2013


I'm not really getting into this album, but "Janie" is beautiful.

October 21st 2013


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

yeah the production on this is really baffling

October 21st 2013


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

did chris just have a really bad cold the week they recorded or something? i have a hard time believing that anyone said "yeah dial up the pitch correction some more, chris's voice still has too much character shining through"

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