Senses Fail

The Fire

Written by: TL on 09/11/2010 22:57:12

"Their old stuff was better". How many times have you heard some stubborn nerd try to certify his coolness with a variant of that sentence, when really, the narrow minded child is just too damn daft to enjoy the progression and maturity of a good band expanding its sound over successive albums? Personally, it has been pissing me off to no end time and again, and yet, when it comes to the band Senses Fail, I must admit to endless hypocrisy, having spoken those words loudly and repeatedly each time I've made contact with am album of a later birth than the debut "Let It Enfold You".

And now here we are, on "The Fire", the fourth LP from the band, me hoping to find something to make me like the band again. Frontman Buddy Nielsen recently spoke in an interview about how his voice didn't drop till after the first album - This I guess makes sense, considering how young the band was when they made a name for them on their debut EP - and about how that basically was like starting over as a vocalist - which would explain why he couldn't sing worth a damn on the two prior albums - and about how he feels like he's gotten to a point with his training where he feels really comfortable again.

Let's hold that thought for a moment though, and talk about what I (also) think made SF suck on "Still Searching" and "Life Is Not A Waiting Room", as compared to "From The Depths Of Dreams EP" and "Let It Enfold You". On the first two records, focus was on super-melodic riffage, punk-rock speed, heart-wrenching melodramatics and throat-wrecking screams. Nielsen didn't exactly sing well back then, but it made no difference, as SF kept the intensity high, the songs flowing and the catchy, memorable lyrics flowing, nevermind if they were cheesy. On the following two LP's, the guitar hooks were gradually faded out, and so was the energy, as the band seemingly tried harder and harder to write anthems for their newfound arena crowd.

That led to a "Still Searching" record which has at best two or three songs ("Calling All Cars" and "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues" come to mind) that are still worth an occasional listen, and a "Life Is Not A Waiting Room" that I only remember with a mental note that says "Tim, it's for the best that you don't remember anything about this record".

So who am I kidding, would I be spending so many lines of this, if "The Fire" was indeed a long awaited return to form? Hell no, I'd likely be singing its praise to the sky instead, but unfortunately, "The Fire" is essentially more of the same tendency I just described. There's not a signature riff in sight and Nielsen's vocals are, although admittedly improved, still impotent compared to even the most average of contemporary singers - Despite his band's considerable career, he still sounds like a wailing adolescent, and a less charming one at that. The lack of charm could possibly be an effect of the lyrics, which are still ripe with references to alcohol and paternal problems, and sees Nielsen use the word "I" enough for anyone to get a little sick of it.

The fact of the matter is, that if poetry is about making trivial observations appear worthwhile, Nielsen's words often seem like he's trying too hard, using the loftiest of words in the making of points that appear all but profound (just listen to "Headed West"). This is bad, when everything good about your band instrumentally, stepped back to give you centre stage two albums ago, and all the manly backing screams and gutsy, over-produced, pseudo-heavy chords of the world isn't going to make a difference.

Anyway, you readers see where this is heading. No, I don't find much to like about the newest Senses Fail record either. It is marginally less annoying compared to the last one (I find it's easier to ignore) but that is all you're getting from me. Think I'm being harsh? Are you disputing my claim that Senses Fail don't do their genre of music very well? Go listen to Conditions' "Fluorescent Youth" or Silverstein's "A Shipwreck In The Sand", or better yet, listen to "From The Depth Of Dreams" or "Let It Enfold You" and then come back and tell me that this is up to par. Right on I'm being that guy. "Their old stuff was better".


Download: Landslide, Headed West
For The Fans Of: Story Of The Year, The Sleeping, Silverstein

Release Date 25.10.2010
Vagrant Records

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