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Failure At Amoeba, Tuesday June 30th 2015

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Every week, Amoeba continues to contribute to my music education, and on Tuesday night, Failure, a band I had never seen live before or had even really been aware of, was doing an in-store. Failure was born in the early 90’s, but stayed quite underground and has probably an older audience than many of the bands performing at Amoeba these days, and that’s why the crowd was dense but not overwhelming as it is often the case for some of these teenagers‘ favorite groups… may be 40-50-year-old people have real job and can’t afford to camp in front of the store at 2 pm? I was running late and I was a bit surprised to get in, because when the band returned from a 17-year hiatus late 2013, and planned a show in Los Angeles, the show sold out in seconds.

The band broke up in 1997, a year after releasing their album ‘Fantastic Planet’ and they developed a sort of cult following, they reunited in 2013, but this time the trio is back with new music, and they were celebrating their new album ‘The Heart Is a Monster’ at Amoeba, the same day of its release, June 30th.

They played a set of six songs, a few new ones and some old stuff, as they said, for the crowd’s greatest pleasure. Their heavy rock sound was guitar-driven with discordance and morose vocals… may be Interpol and all these new bands embracing the detached-mournful vocals have been schooled by Failure,  but I also thought some of their first songs (a new one called ‘Hot Traveler’) sounded like Queens of The Stone Age minus the dance element. They certainly had this sonic thickness, as if there were layers and layers of guitars although they were only three on stage. Another new one, ‘A.M. Amnesia’, had a big space-out sound and elements of many bands I am not sure I can name, simply because I was not really paying attention into this gloomy arena-rock sound in the 90s’, but they recently toured with Tool, if it is an indication… and it is a strong indication!

The older ‘Another Space Song’ from their 1996 album ‘Fantastic Planet’, was not a full rocker at all, but rather a sinister drive, inspiring power, while their old stuff had real power-chord choruses arena sound. Their last song, ‘Screen Man’, from their 1992 ‘Comfort’ album, had even a metal dimension, with a sludgy ambiance slowly sprawling into darkness, and even tiny bits of distortion that could have belonged to Rage Against the Machine’s leftover riffs. I listened to their new album on Spotify at home, and ‘Mulholland Dr.’, a slower song with sweet vocal harmonies that they didn’t play at Amoeba, instantaneously made me think about Pink Floyd,… the 90’s are definitively well alive.

So ‘Heart is A Monster’ is their first new LP in 19 years, and I wonder how easy it is to pick up a sound that you have not left aside for such a long time, but, new or old, all the songs definitively seemed to belong in the same body of work.

‘One thing that Greg and I agreed on very early on, is that we did not want to reform for just one or two nostalgia tours,’ said Ken Andrews in an interview with Noisey. ‘We wanted to come back as a full functioning musical force and creatively pick up where we left off with ‘Fantastic Planet’. That meant we needed to start experimenting in the studio first, which we did in late 2013. After a few months, we came to the conclusion that we were having a good time and that we liked the results, and that we thought the results were definitely Failure.  We’ve been chipping away at a new album this whole time.’

Failure’s members are not into nostalgia at all, as they were playing at Amoeba, it looks like that they had hardly stopped making music together, immediately going into a big rocking sound. The heart may be a monster, but the guitar riffs are still colossal beasts.


Hot Traveler
A.M. Amnesia
Another Space Song
Smoking Umbrellas (1996 Fantastic Planet)
Screen Man

Pictures of the show here.

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