By Joseph Rowan
Like all right-thinking people whose ears appreciate things that are good Fang Island‘s self-titled debut album was my favourite album of 2010 and it ranks among my most-listened to albums from the past 5 years. So, as you might imagine, there were somewhat high expectations riding on the follow-up.
I could pretend there was some doubt about whether Major manages to live up to its awesomely rocking predecessor but I’m not going to stoop to such a disingenuous tactic. Major is fantastic. It’s already leapt well in front of anything else to become my favourite album of the year so far. I can tell it’s going to be the one record that soundtracks my summer – I can confirm from experiments done this week (note to readers from the future: this week was that one week of summer we had) that the album sounds really bloody good when it’s sunny as hell, though I imagine it sounds brilliant in all manner of climates.
Sure, I could point to the fact that both the first and last tracks of the album feature prominent piano and no drums, that the hooks are just a bit poppier and more radio-friendly, even that ‘Regalia’ bears the slightest of resemblances to Sum 41, but I’m just not going to bother. ‘Kindergarten’ is a wonderful scene-setting track and album closer ‘Victorian’ is an equally effective and refreshing closer that’s no less uplifting than the rest of the record; a record so uncontroversially joyful that it threatens to have me permanently fist-pumping every time I listen to it, which has made writing this review somewhat tricky I can tell you.
Look, nothing here is ever going to make it onto Glee so those who were hoping for some serious rocking will not be disappointed just because the boys of Fang Island have perfected the art of writing an insanely catchy hook. Frankly if the joyful lead lick of ‘Never Understand’ doesn’t make you break out into a big, stupid grin then I suspect something is wrong with your joy receptors. Similarly, I seriously hope that the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ flavoured ‘Sisterly’ becomes a breakout hit in the way that ‘Daisy’ from their last album really should have done. In fact, the whole record has the potential to be their big breakthrough album: if it does so then they will have really deserved it.
As I mentioned, those expecting rocking will be richly rewarded. There’s riffs upon licks upon more riffs all over the damn album and the guitar playing has, if anything, become even more impressive. ‘Dooney Rock’, whilst starting with an impressive bit of Irish folk-esque acoustic fingerpicking at one point launches into the type of speedy fretwork that the early Metallica might have approved of, before they got turgid and started making regrettable albums with Lou Reed. There’s some double-tapping on ‘Chompers’ worthy of Eddie Van Halen himself and the duelling guitars on ‘Seek It Out’ are even more ’80s hair metal than Fang Island’s usual, impressive standards.
But an album completely stuffed with riffs has the potential to become a little bit overwhelming, no matter how pumped they get you, so again good on Fang Island for diversifying a little bit and keeping away from the temptation to just deliver big dumb rock. Apart from the aforementioned piano experiments and folky ‘Dooney Rock’ there’s also the Vampire Weekend-style afrobeat of ‘Make Me’, which may just be the catchiest thing on offer here, as well as the fuzzy octave stomp of ‘Never Understand’ which brings to mind Blur’s ‘Boys and Girls’. Touches of synths and organ throughout also help prevent the multi-guitar onslaught from being ‘too much’.
Fang Island described their first album as ‘the sound of everyone high-fiving everyone’. I can’t even conceive of how much high-fiving Major will cause. I will just say that if you like fun, yet thoughtful, rock music then you need this album in your life. Please listen to it.