Failure at Neumos, Seattle - July 5, 2022
In 1996 the album Fantastic Planet was released to critical praise but failed to launch its creators to levels of commercial success that it probably should have. One year later Failure would disband and it would be fair to assume that would be the end of the story… or that there might be "pay-the-rent" reunion tour accompanied by a joyless new album that only bore a hazy resemblance the band the fans once followed. Right? Well… that wouldn't be Failure.
You may not know it yet, but you need Failure in your life and the good news is, that’s still a possibility. The band reunited in 2014, resumed touring, and has since released three new albums that inexplicably not only pick up where they left off close to two decades prior, but are inspired progressions from their original trajectory.
July 5th, 2022 found Failure at Neumos in the once-Grunge-scene Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Nodding to the nostalgia of their Gen X followers the three-piece took the stage to a well-placed clip of the 1990's classic Ren & Stimpy and then proceeded to rock. Quickly building their wall of sound the group's sonic powers are as strong as they are tight, with a pervading theme of beautiful sadness that weaves its way through their lyrics and music. Kelli Scott is a precision machine on the drums, flawlessly executing unique licks that set the pulsing backbone etched with patterns of unique, rhythmic texture. Greg Edwards intrigues with intricate riffs on guitar while also rotating between bass and synth with smooth dexterity. Edwards also offers delicate vocals which greatly enhance the leading voice of Ken Andrews. Andrews’s voice feels effortless and has an almost hauntingly detached quality which aligns nicely with the often-uncanny nature of their lyrics. The three bandmates work off of one another in a tightly choreographed dance, handing off the movements of their room-filling, idiosyncratic audio devices. Another distinctive quality about Failure is their effective use of dynamics, perfectly reigning in the size and reach of their volume to a focused, calm number of measures before blowing it back out with an explosion of energy. They execute this eloquent move regularly and flawlessly. On the whole, Failure offers a very memorable live performance which any fan of solid '90s rock should make an effort to catch and familiarize themselves with before going.
In the opening paragraph of this review I said that the band's seminal album Fantastic Planet probably should have earned them commercial success… on a personal note I would switch out the word "probably" for "definitely." I recognize that musical tastes are highly subjective, but the masses missed out on this one (myself included as I didn't find them until A Perfect Circle enlightened me on the matter, a discovery route that I am certain I share with many others). The album walks the tightrope of being artsy and innovative while simultaneously being thoroughly accessible and infectiously catchy. Their sound is very well defined with a clear and recognizable sense of itself. They are lyrical powerhouses, between the profound and darkly beautiful story telling of songs like "The Nurse Who Loved Me" and "Smoking Umbrellas" and the melancholic honesty of "Blank," they are masterful with their use of words. Even their name, Failure, is one of the most perfect names for a band from the '90s, with only a name like "We Suck" possibly being more fitting for that wonderfully disaffected time and scene in Rock Music. I just can't help but feel that this was one of the decade's most under-acknowledged albums and a band that should have been heard by a much wider audience. All that being said, as mentioned before, after reuniting they continue to be prolific at making amazing music. Their 2021 release, Wild Type Droid, is right up there with Fantastic Planet for this music lover and the album's closing track -- "Half Moon"-- is one of my new favorite songs (getting to hear Greg Edwards perform it live pushed through some stiff competition to be one of the highlights from my night at Neumos). Reuniting after close to 17 years and then coming back so true and so strong and with a matured growth is a rare exception in any artistic field and I genuinely envy the dedicated fans from their past who got to have the experience of first listening to The Heart Is a Monster in 2014 and feeling that surprising joy in real time. They were there. I wasn’t… but I will be next time. I wish this wonderful band nothing but spectacular success and hope they tour through Seattle again veery soon. When they do, I will be there, eager to hear what new wonders they have to sing for us then.