Sounds Like: ON, Year of the Rabbit, Autolux, Failure v2.0, and awkward postcoital tristesse
Why You Should Care: After an epic crash and burn including a meteoric post-breakup rise to cult fame, Failure announced their reunion, including a tour and new recorded material slated for 2014. This new track is their first in 17 years.
The question every bated-breathed Failure fan wants answered at this point is, “WELL… IS IT ANY GOOD????”
While the answer may sound like a total cop-out, it's true: Whether it's any good totally depends not only on your tastes but even more (and more importantly) on your expectations for this reunion and for what’s to come -- crashing, as it were.
Anyone who loves the works of now-cult-famous duo of Greg Edwards and Ken Andrews likely knows them first and foremost as Failure, a long-defunct band who recently made huge waves among new and old fans alike by announcing a reunion many thought would never occur. The Los-Angeles-based outfit are often credited for being both pioneers of the late ‘90s space-rock revival movement, as well as one of the most underrated bands of the grunge/post-grunge era. Especially toward the end, Failure was very much a perfect, and perfectly off-kilter, manifestation of who and where Edwards and Andrews were -- literally and metaphorically -- at the time they made Fantastic Planet -- their self-produced experimental magnum opus portending ultimate demise.
How fans received that record also became a perfect function of themselves in that era and environment. So, to many, Fantastic Planet was and remains a masterpiece, not just of sound, but of moment: a historical record of a particular cross-section of everyone’s lives that perfectly accomplished its mission of, well, Failure. The rich symbolism and perhaps ironic success of their spaced-and-stoned sad swan song makes the idea of a reunion album a daunting and difficult, if not downright impossible, prospective pill for Failure fans to swallow, especially after a nearly two-decade-long hype-filled hiatus and an arguably unassailable, near-mythical legacy.
New material, while exciting, always comes with a lot of risk and baggage: What effect would no longer being those people and that band who recorded Fantastic Planet have on their sound, and what meaning would that have for their identity? How will all the years of cult legend and inflated fan expectations weigh on them and on itself? How, after they’ve already achieved the very concept their entire band was built upon -- from the very name, to their dissonant sickly driving sound, to a seeming raison d’etre almost requiring them to break and stay broken -- can they land this battle-worn spaceship and rejoin the land of the living, especially under that old familiar busted banner? Failure, so to speak, was such the logical conclusion that it would’ve been more surprising -- and, on some level, even artistically disappointing and compromised -- if the band had actually succeeded in the traditional sense.
So then what should even follow such an event horizon, given they so clearly cannot replicate or return from it? If they take a stab at something different, which they have decisively done here, would it even translate, especially as that thing so many have grown to think of, love, and even mythologize as Failure? Or would it be something else entirely -- more like a rebirth or coming down than a taking flight and burning out in a frenzy of fizzled-out spacedust? And if the new work is in fact something else entirely, then why not call it something else entirely? To use icky marketing-speak: Isn’t the “brand” -- or, if one prefers, the whole -- of Failure now far more than the sum of whatever happens when these dudes enter the same room and start making music together?
The lyrics here are promising, if sentimental, and certainly suggest that none of this is lost on them. Sonically, it does initially come off as sounding a bit like elements of Andrews’ ON and Year of the Rabbit joining forces with parts of Edwards’ Autolux… which of course, given the pair at work here and their post-Failure endeavors, is exactly what one would expect. Still, what comes through is less the Failure that made Magnified and Fantastic Planet, and more a new side project or supergroup, held by the original members in the wake of Failure’s failure. The refreshing part, again, is the seeming self-awareness of this, which pairs well with the familiar threads of old, heard woven into the new tapestry’s topography, which still “holds quite a lot of interest with your face down on it.”
While fans no doubt want to hear an album that can hang with, if not top, Fantastic Planet, even the band themselves seem to be subtly acknowledging here that it may not be possible to think in those terms. And even if it was, it certainly couldn’t be done with one standalone track, given the band’s devotion to the LP experience. So the jury will have to hang on these questions until a new album is released in full in 2015. For now, those who might’ve expected “Come Crashing” to have gone somewhere much more grandiose than it ultimately did -- especially after hearing its building intro and knowing Failure’s cumulative history -- would do well to remember that the track is called “Come Crashing,” after all. Because, really, is there anywhere else left to go?