Fang Island – Major

Fang Island was a damned fun album. There wasn’t really a moment of cynicism or doubt on it – it’s happy claps and spiralling builds were almost meant with the utmost sincerity. When the album was at it’s best, it was exploding with rapture on songs such as “Davey Crockett”. When it was at its worst, it was… Basically doing the same thing, but not quite as well. Fang Island return with their second studio album, Major, delivering more of the glorious same. If that floats your boat.

“More of the glorious same” is actually a rather apt descriptive. It’s hard to really talk about Major, because it’s strongest feature also happens to be it’s greatest weakness; the album in many ways feels more like “Fang Island Part II” (actually, that alone may have quashed my main concern with the release) rather than its own independent release. Now, if you’ve never heard Fang Island before, then great! This album is a swell introduction. However, if you’re a big fan of the first album (or even worse, you didn’t really care for it) then Major is really familiar territory. Now, Fang Island’s unique sound doesn’t really mean they can ever appear to be stagnant by any means – but it’s still not terribly progressive. To top it all off, when comparing the two albums, Major just comes off as having more filler tracks, too. From this point on, I’ll be reviewing Major in a vacuum, separate from Fang Island. I just felt it necessary to get that major (HAHA) gripe out the way first.

The album relies heavily on the notion of repetition and build. The songs don’t really evolve or change dramatically so much as become louder or seemingly audacious. The result is an album whose dazzling tricks become less impressive on repeat listens – by your third time through the simple melodies each song uses as its backbone will be achingly apparent. If you’re resilient to that or don’t mind a repeated melody, then the song writing style on display on Major won’t really bother you – for me, however, it made a great deal of the songs become grating. Even worse is when there doesn’t seem to be any melody at all – for instance, the long build in “Asunder” refuses to go anywhere and doesn’t really accomplish anything. It’s not that there’s no pay-off (though there isn’t), it’s that there’s no end goal to begin with. The song isn’t dynamic or interesting in any way, and while the band try their best to sing along earnestly and with great gusto, it’s all too much sound and fury.

I do admire the starry-eyed vigour of the band though. Really, it’s hard not to get swept up in their obvious excitement. One thing I will always love about Fang Island is that they are a band who unashamedly embrace harmonies. Many times, this works wonderfully and can carry an entire song – “Never Understand” for example is a catchy, fun track featuring some really nice guitar work, but it’s the vocals that steal the show. Not to put down the instrumentation – indeed some of the albums best moments (such as the marvellously fun “Chompers”) come on the non-vocal tracks.

Oddly enough, the album both begins and ends with songs heavily based around piano loops. While the songs don’t seem out of place, they certainly do make for odd bookends – the guitar build at the end of “kindergarten” I think introduces the album well, but comes a bit too late in the song. The closing track, “Victorinian”, does not really gel though. It’s one of the defining examples of a song that doesn’t really go anywhere on the album. It has the good graces to outright sound better than some of the other examples of static song writing on the album, but that doesn’t change the fact the song never really changes too much after the first 20 seconds of music.

Major is by no means a dreadful album. Even when compared to Fang Island, the superior of the two very similar records. It’s not even that I was hoping or expecting more from the band. It’s simply that the album loses it’s flare and appeal the more you listen to it. If you never got around to listening to Fang Island, or you simply want to be dazzled by an album on the first listen, then do yourself a favour and check out Major.


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