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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Label: Tooth and Nail Records
Times: 10 tracks / 50:12 minutes
It's been several months since Bleach officially called it quits, but the band promised fans they'd deliver one last record--a final goodbye, so to speak--but wouldn't tour in support of the record. Months pass, and not much seems to take place in the Bleach camp. But while all seems relatively quiet on the Bleach front, the band is actually working hard in the studio. A release date is finally given, March rolls in, and there it is: Bleach's final record, Farewell Old Friends. And boy, what a record it is! Bleach has always released decent to good records, but never, ever before has the band been THIS good.
That isn't to say that Bleach's previous efforts were bad; Astronomy was a mostly gorgeous pop/rock effort, and Again, for the First Time was a fun pop/punk release. But if I were to count the ways that Farewell Old Friends is better than anything else Bleach has done, I'd have to count all my fingers, take off my shoes, count my toes, call a friend over, count his fingers, take off his shoes and count his toes . . . you get the picture. There's better production--the drums are LOUD, Davy's singing is clear and in the forefront, the song order (yes, it is important) is more intelligently arranged, and everything sounds tighter yet not overly slick. There's better song writing--the riffs are more memorable, the hooks are--er--hookier, the composition interesting and full of surprises, the lyrics, though still primarily about relationships and God, are even more sincere and often downright heartbreaking in the imagery and effective, truly moving emotion they bring forth.
But in no way is Farewell Old Friends only commendable simply because it's better than Bleach's other works; it's sincerely a great rock disc, period. From the opening, pop/punkish song and on through a mix of ten excellent tracks, this project is fresh and variable from start to finish. The pacing is perfect--the faster tracks kick things up at all the right moments, the quieter tracks slow things down for affecting melodies, and the many quirky and more epic moments are interspersed excellently. "Clear the Air"'s opening riff and groovy chorus will make you rip your ears off; "To the Top"'s raucous rhythm and lyrics feels similar to the material from _Again, for the First Time,_ but with a few more years' worth of experience reflected in the songwriting. The seventh and eighth songs feature (gasp!) worship--done right; "Sufficient" opens and (it seems at first) closes with a relatively gently paced tempo, much of the chorus carried only by Davy's lone voice, with a Christa Joy Black providing a Pretty Voice to back up the man. Four minutes slip buy, and everything quiets down, with a bit of fuzz lingering out a bit longer than usual--and right when the song should end, the lone guitar line in the bridge from "Knocked Out" kicks in, the drums start back up, Davy gets back to the singing--"I'm not knocked out / I'm not knocked out / save me from this. . . ." Everything continues to build, and for the next seven straight minutes there is, by God, absolutely no stopping them. Things only slow down once the song hits the nine minute mark, the music drawing out to the very last, quietest note. The song finally ends with Davy's drawling, exhausted, broken voice barely singing, mostly saying "I'm at the bottom / of this world / save me / save me / Jesus / name above. . . / Jesus. . ." and it's over. Now that's a worship song!
Song eight--the other worship track--acts almost like a breather from its epic forerunner, but is much more than a basic worship song--"there's no second chance to fix what went wrong / and we are just lost here / and there is no path now that you're gone / and there is no map that can show us the way / so we can move on. . . hallelujah, this is not our home." Tied thematically with the title track, it explains the image of the whole disc. And as just mentioned, the record closes with the title track--a swan song, a gorgeous, cradle-rocking melody and lyrics. "Farewell old friends / this has been the best it could've been / farewell old friends / and we won't forget / the times we spent / as for me and my countrymen / we are headed out to sea / and there is no way that this is the end for them or for me. . ." It's one of the most moving finales I've seen or heard in any form of entertainment in years.
The record is always changing, always luring in the listener with a good melody and/or catchy riff, than pulling out the stops with a surprise ending or complete mix up in the composition of the song that often completely alters the tone of the track. Critics who have called Bleach a "cheerleader" or "youth-group only" band simply can't do so here--the music is more mature, more experienced than anything the band has previously done.
Bleach bows out in the finest way imaginable--by delivering the best record of its career. There's simply nothing more we could ask.
Jonathan Avants March 19, 2005
The head spins and the heart swoons. Embracing and cross-hatching Britpop and Emo finds Bleach at a time and place that transcends both above-mentioned genres to deliver a collection of songs that touches the soul and satisfies the rock scholar within us.
And of course, it is in the quieter moments where true strength is displayed as on the string-laden ballads, "Gonna Take Some Time," and "Condition" wherein the specter of Ben Folds Five and XTC lingers gorgeously.
Finding ambition and the audacity to write and record not one but two rock suites that stretch beyond the nine-minute mark without once belaboring the sheer length of either.
The paean to salvation, "Sufficient" begins with a poignant edge and shifts into overdrive introspective mode before bursting into anthemic glee and resolving with worshipful conclusion. The tender send-off that is "Farewell Old Friends" is a moving _tour de force_ that pulls no emotional punches as Bleach lay bare its hopes and dreams for the future--pure lump in throat stuff.
In-between the vibrant energy of "Clear the Air," "To the Top," and "Good as Gold" will keep the punk pop kiddies happy with good old-fashioned melodic rock the order of the day.
With an uncanny sense of timing, Bleach has come to good end with its swan song and whilst itís probably a pity that the band is no more, at least it ended in a blaze of glory. Simply put, one of the best albums of 2005 thus far.
Kevin Mathews April 23, 2005
Once again, it is a farewell and goodbye for the Bleach guys. Last time yielded a farewell tour, but one lurking question popped up at that time, "why no new content on a CD?". Well.... surprise, surprise, Bleach has a new CD! _Farewell Old Friends_ is a heartfelt farewell to fans and friends of Bleach alike. Produced by Oran Thornton this CD feels like Bleach had a comfortable, relaxing, and fun time recording this final album. They rock out with a slight bit more indie and alternative selections than their past pop rock glory days. Think of a band "maturing" and this is what it would be. Do not think that it is all serious, because a few tracks are poppy. There are fun, positive, sometimes serious, and Christ centered lyrics throughout. Expect NO touring in support of this CD, they are done with that. It seems as though Bleach recorded a CD for the sake of all thegood times they had, as a band, with friends, and for fans. So.... this is the farewell from the Bleach guys, THE END, at least for this bands' musical run at longevity. Good luck to the guys in the future!
Len Nash 4/28/2005
*Used under permission of www.indievisionmusic.com and the writer*