Review Summary: An underappreciated gem of turn-of-the-millenium math rock.
I want to pinpoint a dozen or so moments (I'm not going to, but I want to) in The View From This Tower
that force me to press pause, go back and relive again. Moments of guitar hero brilliance or fascinating melodic shifts that resonate for far longer than their runtime. But maybe a broader appeal is needed, so here it is: we need to remember the compelling, complex, and fist-pumping rock of Washington, D.C.'s Faraquet.
For a few short years, Faraquet was Devin Ocampo, Chad Molter, and Jeff Boswell, a trio with other tenacious post-punk bands in their near past (Loomis Slovak, Smart Went Crazy) and future (Medications, the EFFECTS, Grass). The 2008 compilation Anthology 1997-98
would cobble together the band's earlier assorted singles of that time, but 2000's The View From This Tower
would be Faraquet's solitary complete statement.
Indebted to the technical prowess of King Crimson, Faraquet embrace prog-rock experimentation and allusions to free jazz, but they don't succumb to the excesses of either genre. Instead, The View From This Tower
is bound to punk efficiency and satisfying rock melodies that are hard-won in the midst of math rock complication. Perhaps the shortest route to describing Faraquet's sound is their place within the legendary Dischord Records family. Particularly in the vein of Fugazi and Q and Not U, the band captured part of the D.C. post-hardcore sound at the turn-of-the-millenium.
The nervous energy of The View From This Tower
is fully encapsulated in its explosive opener "Cut Self Not." From its no-nonsense opening riff to its angular guitar build-up and graceful interludes, the track stops, slows, and sprints in exciting, calculated bursts. As with so much of the album, short gestures in "Cut Self Not" create lasting impressions (I think a lot about 2:44...whoa). The "Fourth Introduction" similarly enthralls, with driving guitar and drums sliding into a stuttered vocal section around which the rest of the band coalesces. A tense dynamic between restraint and propulsion gives the moderate to high-tempo songs a frenetic drama that can change direction on a dime.
Highlight "Study in Complacency" follows half a dozen melodic ideas, threaded together by Ocampo's singing of some cryptic existential crisis. "Song for Friends to Me" is the goofball track on otherwise stern-faced (yet still very fun) album, with audacious horn blasts and a lyrical brashness that evokes pre-Emergency & I
Dismemberment Plan. Elsewhere, the album dips toward quieter brooding (as on "Conceptual Separation of Self"), but never leaves the threat of ramping up behind.
Ocampo does an admirable vocal job in grounding the sound and Molter's drumming provides a potent jolt to the album, especially in "The View From This Tower." But on the whole, Faraquet still comes out a guitar band. Piercing riffs and angular guitar heroics are where the fun is. More fun is in the surprisingly diverse instrumental array that glides into the mix, including prominent cello on "Conceptual Separation of Self" and moments of banjo, bongos, and the aforementioned horns elsewhere. I'm sure Faraquet has more to say than that they can seriously rock out, as the album's coded lyrics and song titles suggest some textual depth (Google some of these song titles and you will be suggested to check out scholarly philosophy articles), but its the frenzied sonics that make the impact.
And if it's for their moments of transcendent riffing or compelling energy that Faraquet is remembered, or belatedly discovered, it will be a worthy legacy.