Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: Sargent House
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
This album is stunning. Here's why. In their move from the world’s most life-affirming and positive sounding instrumental band (seriously, they describe their music as “the sound of everyone high-fiving”) to the world’s most life-affirming and positive sounding prog band, Fang Island have added layers upon layers to the mix. Pianos, percussion and a three-pronged vocal massage join the customary guitar melodies that are designed to put a smile on all corners of angst-ridden humanity.
Brooklyn via Rhode Island trio Fang Island make math-infused riff rock for indie kids whose ‘80s metal t-shirts aren’t quite as ironic as one might think. The band describes their own sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone” and their goal as musicians to “make music for people who like music”. On their sophomore full length, Major, they succeed admirably in accomplishing just that.
Over-the-top and packed with celebratory guitar riffs, Fang Island’s Major proves that a dose of well-intentioned cheesiness can coax a smile out of even the most hesitant of listeners. Describing the overall sound of its first release as “everyone high-fiving everyone,” the Rhode Island trio hasn’t strayed too far from its 2010 self-titled debut with its most recent 11-track collection. Major isn’t shy when it comes to its overindulgent qualities—dishing out amped up guitar solos and irreverent drum licks to the point where it’s unclear as to where the actual song begins and the energy-packed improv ends.
The tones are beefy and the drums like bursts of rain on Fang Island’s Major, a rollicking bunch of speedy, punchy, pop-metal anthems. Unfortunately, many of the singalong melodies seem simplistic and hand-me-down, and true variety seems to escape the band until the final cluster of songs, which ignite a fun, white-hot emotional dynamism and a powerful imaginative sense. Fang Island seems like a kickass live band, but sound somewhat scattered on headphones.
We’re a generation weaned on the idea that we’re all special snowflakes, different from one another, moving inevitably towards the Job Of Our Dreams, the Life Of Our Dreams, and the World Of Our Dreams. But now we’re moving home in greater numbers, living through a recession that puts Generation X post-collegial whining into its proper bitching about nothing context, all while spending our days trying to save the World We Were Promised from a world of Street Sharks Netflix marathons, underpaying jobs we’re overqualified for and cheap drugs. We’re a nostalgic bunch, longingly staring back to the time when our own success was guaranteed by teachers, parents and TV shows, wishing things were as great as they were when we were in elementary school and the World Would Be Ours.
Any band who take their name from genius satirical website The Onion and release soft-focus shots of themselves wearing matching shirts and staring blithely into the middle distance like the geeky table at a school prom must have a great sense of humour, right? Right. ‘Sisterly’ rushes along on eddying guitar solos and shout-sung vocals like the musical personification of an air-punch, while the chugging bass and incessant “[i]woah[/i]”s on ‘Asunder’ are devilishly infectious. The whole thing sounds like the soundtrack to your favourite ’90s adolescent rom-com.
After releasing their irrepressible second record of high-fivin', guitar-tappin' spazz-rock, Fang Island started to incorporate a cover of Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" into their live sets. Two things stood out: While they were hardly the only indie rock band at the time showing love to 90s R&B hits, they didn't approach it with anything resembling irony or cred-consciousness, and thus were one of the few who didn't completely embarrass themselves. Secondly, while keeping its core intact, they still managed to make it sound like a Fang Island song.
Fang IslandMajor[Sargent House; 2012]By Brendan Frank; July 31, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt seems as though Fang Island is still grappling with the concept of the trade-off ("Remove something, replace it with something of equal or greater value, everyone’s happy"). Their self-titled debut spun out song after song of adrenalizing, dazzling riff-driven rock. For what it was, it was damn well near perfect.
"Everyone high-fiving everyone" was how Brooklyn trio Fang Island described their 2010 debut, and the same sense of gleeful abandon drives its follow-up. Hats off, for starters, for the volume of big-haired soloing on display here; foot-on-monitor instrumental Chompers consists of little else, while Dooney Rock makes an unlikely success of electric bluegrass. But Major isn't the hipster pastiche that might lead you to suspect; much of this record deals in warm West Coast pop, its hair-rock extensions grafted on to hazy melodies and harmonies, as on blissed-out centrepiece Asunder.
Fang Island are unusually good at describing their own music. As well as their oft-quoted four-word manifesto “everyone high-fiving everyone”, their latest press release outlines the goal of their songs as: “All of your favorite parts of the song that other bands make you wait 8 minutes to get to”. They aren’t even exaggerating: this is the main strength of Fang Island’s songwriting, their ear for power-pop catchiness.
Fang Island have said that they want to make music which was 'nothing but your favourite hooks back to back'. Their debut self-titled LP made several great leaps in the right direction: a rush of electrified energy, galloping rhythms, relentlessly heroic guitars and often wordless vocals conveying joy beyond adrenaline. And initial clues from this new record – their second – seemed to promise to double down on the barely controlled explosions of ‘fuck-yeah’ which made up their debut.
Brooklyn by way of Providence miniature guitar army Fang Island's second studio outing, the appropriately titled Major, finds the newly shrunken trio merrily avoiding minor keys amidst a maelstrom of metal-infused, full-hearted millennial power pop. Raw, radiant, and rambunctious, songs like "Kindergarten," "Chime Out," and "Asunder" belong in a Wes Anderson film, albeit one that inhabits an alternate universe where the fastidious auteur was weaned on '80s hair metal instead of '60s pop. Major, like the band's 2010 eponymous debut, sounds like Torche tearing through a set of Cheap Trick classics, but unlike its predecessor, the constant "oohs" and "aahs" are outweighed by actual lyrics, though brevity remains the rule of the day -- "Never Understand," with its unending refrain of "I hope I never understand" and infectious "Second Hand News"-era Fleetwood Mac gait, gets the balance just about right.
On Major, the Brooklyn, NY trio of exuberance maestros dubbed Fang Island sacrifice none of their candy-coated charm or technically adept musicality in their continued mission to hone the craft of sonic positivity. Their second LP as part of Sargent House's carefully curated roster of forward-thinking artists, who are redefining the perceived limitations of progressive music, is as relentlessly optimistic and crammed with joyous major key guitar riffage and gang harmonies as their self-titled debut, but also finds room for growth. "Dooney Rock," a Celtic stomper injected with some peppy thrash metal chugging, stands out from the pack, and opener "Kindergarten" allows for a bit of deceptive minor key exploration while including the band's hankering to dress tracks in epic guitar harmonies, with an atypical, bouncy piano refrain.
It’s impossible to come away from Major without a big grin plastered from ear to ear. Mike Diver 2012 Fang Island make cheesy riffs and top-of-your-voice sing-alongs seem the most vital musical elements, ever. Their unabashed enthusiasm for all-embracing, utterly accessible noise-with-pop-nous is incredibly endearing – it’s (probably scientifically) impossible to come away from Major without a big dumb grin plastered from ear to ear.