"It seemed more a fashion thing to me," Jonah says. "Bands like Fugazi, Promise Ring, Sunny Day, Quicksand, Jawbox and us, we were all called 'Emo.' To me, it became ironic, and there was even a sub term, 'Screamo.' But none of that has anything to do with what I felt was being relatively unedited with one's emotions. Any music worth its salt has a fair dose of emotion, a lot of happiness -- joy as well as pain. It's important in music as it is in life, because it's too easy to wallow in sadness all the time. Some bands do it, but we didn't want to." - Jonah Mataranga
With the rise and rise of popcore and bands like Thursday, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday et al invading the public consciousness it suddenly seems more important to examine the roots of all this. Far were an unashamedly emotional post hardcore band fronted by one Jonah Matranga.
At the time of this recording (and all others) they were:
Jonah Matranga - Vocals & Guitar
Shaun Lopez - Guitar
John Gutenberger - Bass
Chris Robyn - Drums
Far are about light and dark, quiet and loud, joy and sadness. But most of all, they are about love. This is because of frontman Jonah's lyrical subject; love. Whether expressed as the wonder that comes from a loving relationship 'Nestle' where he sings "Nestle, I won't ever let you go" or the rage and hurt that comes from losing someone you love like on 'I like It'; "I heard about your last words and I can't say I'm sorry". He even takes on the love in organised religion on 'Waiting For Sunday'.
Jonah's lyrics never fall into the the trap of becoming simplistic and embarrassing (see Senses Fail), they display a wit and intelligence and tread the line between Journal entries and lyrics that Conor Oberst also walks so well for his work with Bright Eyes.
Jonah's voice is almost like hearing his journal entries sung to you, in that all the passion is contained in his voice. His voice is quite raw, it's tecnhically accomplished though and there are no points where he can't sing, whether it's the soulful crrons on slow burning finisher 'Waiting for Sunday' or the forceful screams on The System. The main benefit of the rawness and less than perfect sheen is a sense of intimacy. Like I said, it sounds like his deepest most darkest secrets are being sung for you, and gets across emotion in a way the perfectly sanitised radio screams of Hawthorne Heights never could.
Musically, the band opt for both driving drums and fast uptempo songs with the bass grounding the guitars on 'The System' or 'Mother Mary' (in a less than spectacular manner it has to be said) or slow introspective songs to match Jonah's lyrics and voice like on 'In 2 Again'. All the songs exhibit an understanding of what a song catchy and yet not obviously so. With bands seemingly rigidly sticking to the Scream/radio chorus (Under0ATH, Atreyu, Silverstein etc) Far's understanding of melodic beauty is even more welcome. It does bring to mind Rival Schools, with a mix of the pop sensibilities of Saves The Day and harder more punk ethics of Rites of Spring.
The production leaves the guitars fuzzy with bite but it's warm enough to be easy to listen to. Violins make an appearance on 'In 2 Again' where they slowly play, complementing Jonah's voice which sounds like it's about to collapse as it is sung in a way that is fragile and enamoring.
The fast songs' advantage lies in the fact that the hooks aren't obvious, they are well written and you will be able to listen to them more than 4 times. The slow songs benefit from the fact that they seem so real and honest, like they wouldn't work without soothing guitar picking and gentle drumming. Ever hear a slow song on a rock record and think 'it's nice' but you know it's dispensable and put on there as 'the slow track'" That doesn't happen here, every song matters.
There really isn't a weak song on here, and I wish I could explain why each and every song so captivates me but stand out songs would be Water & Solutions, a song that is catchy and has a beautiful bridge with Jonah stretching his voice, 'Mother Mary' which is the song Lostprophets tried to write with 'Burn Burn' and 'Nestle' a romantic song that so wonderfully emphasises Far's grasp of powerful, melodic rock.
Quite frankly if you own anything like the bands I have mentioned above you owe it to yourself to get this album, to see how utterly enthralling this genre can be and the classic records that so inspired a generation of artists.
For fans of:
Quicksand, Rival Schools, Thursday,
Any input on the review would be greatly appreciated, thanks :)