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The Moon is Down
Artist: Further Seems Forever
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Length: 10 tracks
When the members of hardcore band Strongarm decided to form a new band, they called on Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba to provide the vocals and lyrics. And the result is far from hardcore: an emo based sound with shades of post-punk thrown in for good measure. While FSF is a little late in coming to the emo game, and their sound at times is a bit formulaic, they are at their best when they stay close to that same emo formula. Carrabba's vocals are reminiscent of some of the genre's top names, but not too close to be accused of ripping them off. There are a few songs that veer a bit too close to the post-punk malaise of some of their labelmates, but all in all this is a pretty darn good disc. Lyrically, the songs revolve heavily around the issues of relationships, and in paricular, the struggle of maintaining long-distance relationships (hence the band's name).
The unfortunate thing for this band, is that Carrabba has departed before the disc is even released, on what both sides say was a "mutual decision." So Carrabba continues with Dashboard Confessional while the rest of the band is left auditioning new lead singers. Hopefully they can find someone with the same vocal intensity that is heard on the disc.
Oh...and listen close at the end of the hidden track for a killer Bob Ross impersonation. God bless creativity!
Ken Mueller 3/5/2001
The history of Further Seems Forever is inextricably tied to that of the Miami-based punk band Strongarm, from which the bulk of its members came. Fusing together the hardcore punk of Husker Du and the thrash metal of Sepultura for their sound, Strongarm released only two full albums for Tooth & Nail Records, 1996's Atonement and 1997's Advent of a Miracle, before packing it in. But, several members of Strongarm later reconvened to form Further Seems Forever and, in 1999, the band released a six-song split EP, From the 27th State, with fellow Floridians Recess Theory on the small Birmingham, Alabama, Takehold Records label. The EP earned positive reviews and the band was nominated for best new group at the 1999 Slammie (South Florida music) Awards. The group signed with Tooth & Nail Records in November of that year.
Although all four instrumentalists from Advent once again accounted for on The Moon is Down, FSF's full-length debut is anything but a carbon copy of the Strongarm projects that have come before it. While Strongarm's punk rock ethos, with its rough-edged instrumentals, blinding speed and near-shouted vocals, pops up here and there on songs like "Pictures of Shorelines," other pieces, like "Snowbirds & Townies" and the title track are clearly stamped with the softer, more melodic alternative pop/rock trappings of artists like Fono and the Goo Goo Dolls. And the band has buried any trace of its hardcore roots on the careening "Madison Prep," which harks back, more than anything else, to the buoyant early '70s classic power pop of Badfinger and the Flamin' Groovies. Given its diversity, a collection of songs this varied might well have wound up being nothing more than a haphazard collection of mostly incongruent elements. To avoid this, however, the band deconstructs each of its compositions into short, elemental musical phrases, running each through a myriad of complex, start-stop rhythms and changing time signatures. The approach ends up lending the album a sort of unifying progressive rock underpinning that merges the assorted songs into a decidedly harmonious whole.
The songs on Moon are, by and large, melancholy reflections on the darker side of interpersonal relationships and the corresponding efforts made to restore them. Like so many other artists whose focus is so exclusive, the members of FSF occasionally resort to cliche'd or cloying language, like that of "Pictures of Shorelines" (You're my best side/ And it's early June/ So the sand's still dry/ And you have got the boldest eyes), to make their case. But, more often than not, the lyrics on the release are both thought-provoking and unique, forming the perfect complement to the group's enlivened instrumental work. The staccato phrasing on "The Bradley" (False pretense/ Like resonance/ On your rising sentiment and confidence) meshes smoothly with the song's frenetic musical section. "Just Until Sundown" (Blaming this all on the moment/ Blaming this all on my views/ Blaming the mood on the music/ Blaming it all on you) makes equally fine use of both parallelism and repetition to drive its point home. And the lyrical structure of "Justice Prevails" (You should have waited until you ended this/ Then you'd have nothing to confess/ I thought you'd leave me next to nothing/ And now you're leaving me much less) is simply a fine example of well-constructed and thought-provoking word use.
Despite the group's moving into a decidedly more pop-oriented vein, Chris Carrabba still delivers his vocals in classic punk fashion. While the less-than-perfect combination undeniably works to diminish Moon's overall coherency, the juxtaposition of the pure punk and pop elements does infuse the effort with an engaging sense of tension and urgency that it would otherwise be lacking. And although the material on Moon is not as instantly memorable as, say, the classic power pop offerings of the Raspberries, the modern rock of the Foo Fighters or the comedic punk-pop of Blink 182, its frantic pace and near-seamless combination of these potentially divergent musical styles serves as a most effective invitation to an exhilarating and ablycrafted piece of work.
Bert Gangl 3/5/2001
If there's one genre that seems to be singled out for an unfair amount of maligning, it's emo. For many, there's something about the image of skinny white guys in tight shirts and horn-rimmed glasses screaming awkward lyrics about pain and betrayal that, well, just sets something off. And to those people, The Moon Is Down is ripe for the picking. After all, it's incredibly earnest, with those too-emotional vocals and too-poetic-for-their-own-good lyrics. But it's also so confident and emotional that it has a good chance at silencing most of its possible detractors.
Really, what's so bad about being earnest? Alright, I'll admit that lot of the so-called "emo" crowd is, well... the primary reason I can't take it seriously is because every song that bands like The Juliana Theory write seems engineered to make girls swoon over how sensitive and honest the band is. And, as all guys know, girls are suckers for that super-sensitive indie guy (it hasn't worked for me yet, but I keep hoping). But Further Seems Forever could just change some minds.
The real reason that Further Seems Forever succeeds is the vocals of Chris Carabba, who can out sing any pimply emo boy out there. Of course, now that the album is set for release, Carabba has left the group to work on a solo project (which I assume to be Dashboard Confessional). It remains to be seen just how that will affect the group, but whatever the outcome, The Moon Is Down remains an album whose passion seems like less and less of a liability with each listen.
The other part of Further Seems Forever's success is their pedigree, which boasts some impressive names, especially hardcore vets Strongarm. The aggression is still there, but it's been streamlined, channelled through a more pop-oriented sound. Clocking in at around 30 minutes over the course of 10 songs, the album never really takes a breather. As usual, the brevity works, and the album never really outstays its welcome.
And of course, it helps when you have something to say, and believe it or not, Further Seems Forever does. Oh sure, they still sing about girls and relationships (the band gets their name from a reference to dreaded long distance relationships), but at least they don't sound all whiny when they do it. Again, much of that is due to the vocals, and the result is some powerful stuff. Even a critic as jaded as I has to choke back a sob when I hear Carraba belt out "I'm waiting to give whatever the world may bring/I'd give you my life 'cause I don't own anything" ("New Year's Project"). And even on the slower numbers, the group plays with passion and conviction.
You could compare them to The Juliana Theory and Sunny Day Real Estate, but they stand comfortably between the two. They may have the Theory's pop appeal, but they carry the Estate's depth (minus all of the prog rock-isms). Or imagine a Weezer that didn't spend their childhood reading comics and playing air guitar in the garage. All right, so maybe Further Seems Forever may not be the next big indie crossover. But given the general mediocrity of Further Seems Forever's peers, they manage to stand quite a ways out from the crowd.
Jason Morehead. 03/31/2001
One album down, one lead singer gone. Further Seems Forever has already had a tumultuous year and their album has only been out a few months. Their lead singer, Chris Carrabba, parted on good terms. The band has meanwhile replaced him with interim singer Jason Gleason. This has the possibility to change the scope of the band entirely. Gleason may be very talented, but one of the first aspects of Further Seems Forever that jumps out at you is the smooth emo vocals of Carrabba. Will they be able to replace him and keep it going?
Let's approach this review
from the standpoint of the disc as it is, rather than the current line-up.
There is a lot of good stuff on this CD. The Moon is Down opens
with the title track and keeps its pace right through the
The Moon is Down is a very good album, but give it three or four listens before you pass judgement. You may be pleasantly surprised as the album progresses.
Matt Riddle 5/29/2001