Release Date: Jun 3, 2016
Record label: Kanine Records
If Fear of Men’s excellent 2014 release Loom shot the icy clarity of Jess Weiss’s placidly devastating lyrics through the lens of a spare and flat but nevertheless decidedly inviting jangle-pop, this year’s Fall Forever finds the group ditching the jangle and moving fully into the glassy, fluid clarity once occupied solely by her voice. There’s not a guitar strum to be found save a low-mixed, heavily distorted shiver or two, with gliding sustained notes and shimmering reverb predominating, underpinned by a deeply fragmented and skeletal yet unnervingly tight percussive section that toggles between acoustic and electric tones. The net effect, initially, is an even greater sense of remove, the cold post-continental philosophizing of bodies merging with the frigid precision of her band.
Few bands know their own strengths like Brighton’s Fear of Men. Every speck of sound and vision has been considered to the nth degree. Song titles rarely stray from monosyllabic territory. Striking visuals have always been key, even when they were making promising first steps on 2014 debut ‘Loom’.
Fear Of Men's acclaimed 2014 debut, Loom, was bristling with a quiet anger that seemed ready to burst at nearly any moment. But it never did. Instead, the ire of guitarist and vocalist Jessica Weiss sat simmering beneath the dreamy instrumentation. The jangling guitars wouldn't have seemed out of place on any number of dream pop albums, but Loom's real power came from coupling that airy instrumentation with the cutting and occasionally disconcerting lyrics.
In 2014, Brighton’s Fear of Men announced themselves with Loom, a record steeped in intimate darkness, its fragile, taut sound locating them in a sweet groove somewhere between Veronica Falls and My Bloody Valentine. The frayed edges of that record suggested room for refinement, but more importantly room to grow, with the resonant discontent of lead singer Jessica Weiss offering plenty of promise of more to come. It’s with some relief then that despite their stated intent to '[strip] their sound back to the bone' in pre-release press, Fall Forever contains all the elements that made them a compelling proposition in the first place.
Fear of Men's 2014 debut, Loom, was an alluring blend of lo-fi dream pop, straddling an unusual space between the fuzzy, unpolished appeal of classic K Records singles and the more recent wave of ramshackle indie pop typified by bands such as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. That first record sometimes felt a little deceptive—Jessica Weiss' usually bleak, always compelling lyrics made the whole thing seem a lot darker and gloomier than it actually was, while the music itself kept driving forward and spinning off the occasional ball of nervous energy. Listening to it back-to-back with their sophomore full-length, it can feel like the floor goes out beneath you the moment it clicks over to Fall Forever.
On their second full-length, British indie pop trio Fear of Men continue to experiment with sonic textures while delivering stark, confessional lyrics. Musically, the album is far subtler than their astonishing 2014 debut full-length Loom or the group's initial material collected on the 2013 release Early Fragments. Instead of featuring jangly guitars laced with noisy feedback, occasionally building up to intense, cathartic climaxes, Fall Forever is graced by atmospheric, drifting guitars and thin layers of cold synths.
Well, nobody will be calling Fear of Men twee anymore. On the Brighton band’s debut album Loom, Jessica Weiss voiced some seriously dark, at times even-morbid sentiments, but they were undercut by disarming jangle-pop guitars and sprightly rhythms that made it difficult to take her at her word. Thirty years of conditioning have taught us to associate these sounds with levity—after all, if Morrissey was mostly just being dramatic, surely Weiss was, too? On their follow-up Fall Forever, though, the band eliminates the disconnect between Weiss’ bleak prose and their delivery system.
Fear Of Men displayed magnificent tension in buoyant bursts on its full-length debut, 2014’s Loom. The U.K. trio lifted Nico’s bashful elegance and turned it into sparkling, deeply heartbreaking indie pop. By contrast, follow-up Fall Forever feels more at ease, content and nearly reaching a comfortable emotional state, at least for most of the duration.
The conventional wisdom, if such a thing exists these days, would have you believe that any band’s second record should be a hectic affair. For one, they’re likely up against some kind of deadline, whether it’s a soft one that they’ve set for themselves or a hard one that’s been laid down by the record label. On top of that, there’s the old adage that they’ve had forever to craft their debut LP, but much shorter a time to put together the follow-up, during which they’ll inevitably have been on the road, too.