It began on October 17 with Failure’s Facebook page changing its cover photo to simply read “FAILURE twenty fourteen”, an action which gained 1809 Likes and 902 Shares (as of this writing). It was shortly followed by a status which read “ITS (sic) on PEOPLE!!”. I’ve seen a tease rollout like this before recently: Refused posted a teaser image on its webpage before later announcing a reunion tour and show at Coachella last year. Since that tease came to fruition, I hoped that something more substantive than a record reissue would follow. Yesterday this was confirmed, as Failure announced that they are playing a reunion show at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. This will mark the first time in 15 years
that the band has performed together.
Readers will likely have heard of many of Failure’s former members’ more recent work: A Perfect Circle and Queens of the Stone Age (guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen), Autolux (bassist/guitarist Greg Edwards), and Year of the Rabbit (vocalist/guitarist/bass/drums/everything) Ken Andrews. It’s less likely, however, that some will know the original group’s work as the band that made the perfect marriage of grunge and space-rock that isn’t even remotely shoegaze. If you like any of the members’ spinoff projects and/or Hum, post-“Until Your Heart Stops” Cave In, or dare I say Nirvana, you need to listen to more Failure if you aren’t already.
I have a small CD wallet in my car (yes, I still use CDs) that I try to rotate every once in a
while, but I get stuck (on you, HAR HAR) in a rut and keep the same handful of essentials in there that I just never seem to be done with. Among these must-listens is Failure’s “Fantastic Planet”, a whopping 17-track monster that is more or less divided into three segments via Ken Andrews’ signature segue tracks (appropriately titled “Segue 1”, “Segue Two”, and Segue Three”: “Segue 1” really just kind of extends one of the tracks, though, much like “Meo Bloonasir” extends “Hoppipolla” from Sigur Ros “Takk” [sorry for my bad Icelandic, Culture Czar]). Within “Fantastic Planet” you’ll find what would otherwise end up on a “Failure’s Greatest Hits” collection: “The Nurse Who Loved Me” starts as a sweet acoustic love song that erupts into a jarring fifth-chord grunge anthem (it was also converted to a vocals and strings only cover by A Perfect Circle on “Thirteenth Step”), “Stuck on You” is another with sappy lyrics–an ode to heroin in disguise as a love song–and a distinct high-pitched guitar riff that cements itself as its own earwig in a very meta fashion, and “Dirty Blue Balloons” is basically another song about heroin (Easter Egg: you can hear a lighter, some fizzing, then boiling during the pre guitar solo interlude).
For me, however, the real highlights are “Sergeant Politeness” (which showcases several signature Failure sounds: Andrews’ penchant for barre chords formed with all six strings for fully textured guitar sound, the acoustic-then-electric intro structure, and the guitar as metronome for the song…not to mention lyrics about heroin), “Pillowhead” (an incredibly depressing ode to sexual frustration set to a killer distorted bass riff augmented by a matching acoustic guitar riff), “Another Space Song” (which uses isolation in space a la “Space Oddity” as a metaphor for the perfect girl always eluding your desperate searches: “She’ll always be what I can’t find/She’ll always be where I break down/She’ll always hide behind a star/I’ll always dream: she can’t be far”. Of course, it’s probably also heroin-related), and the super heavy drone of “Heliotropic” (whose drum and throbbing bass will crush you even before the guitars kick in with dual octave riffs dripping with chorus. Also, heroin.) [note: our editor will attest to me forcing her to listen to this song on repeat].
It seems appropriate to insert a disclaimer that, at least in my opinion, all of the heroin-related lyrics are not celebrations or endorsements of drug use, but rather painfully realistic looks at the effects of it and the way that addiction creeps into every aspect of your life. Those sappy forlorn love song lyrics I mentioned earlier can chalk up the separation to addiction, and the album is long on depressive states and short on joy that isn’t simply euphoria from getting high.
Even though “Fantastic Planet” has all the “hits”, their earlier work is absolutely worth checking out. Their second album “Magnified” opens with one of my all-time favorites “Let it Drip” and also contains the title track that you might be more familiar with due to Cave In’s cover on their EP “Creative Eclipses”, which marked their new direction into their classic “Jupiter”. Failure also recorded a terrific cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” that Andrew Fletcher said he actually prefers to his own version! Demos, outtakes, and other extras can also be found on posthumous releases “Golden” (including another favorite of mine, “Shrine”) and “Essentials” (which acts as that aforementioned “Greatest Hits” compilation of selected tracks from their three albums).
When pressed about whether the reunion show was a once only thing or the beginning of a reunion tour, the band replied that the LA show “is the only show confirmed at the moment”. I hope and pray that this extends to a tour, and we will update you if and when that happens. In the meantime, tickets for the LA reunion show go on sale this Thursday. As a bonus, the first 250 ticket purchases from axs.com (or at Amoeba Records and Origami Vinyl in LA) will receive a special edition 7″. I’m getting a 7″ just thinking about a reunion tour WAIT WHAT WHOA WHOA WHOA STAHP.