fang island fang island
  • WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2010

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It isn't very often that entire components of rock can be omitted or ignored for long periods of time without sounds pretentious or lacking in thought. It also isn't very often that a band can get away with calling their sound "high-fiving each other" for thirty minutes. There are barely any vocals on Fang Island, the self-titled debut from the Brooklyn band formed at a Rhode Island art school. Some might be expecting the next big thing, some might expect a dud. But Fang Island is a different class of criminal, cleverly crafting a subtle statement on the more bombastic sides of glam, classic rock and metal with art-punk which boarders on masturbatory. And for all their cautious development of a specific kind of sarcasm, they are rewarded with an album that is almost like one big, awesome punchline. The good kind.

The best part is the album is no joke. The guys seriously beat the crap out of each song, peppering their bravado with guitar solos and gut-busting breakdowns. It is high-octane from start to finish, barely taking a breath every two tracks or so (and on the lighter-worthy "Davy Crockett" ballad). The songs bounce from giving Japandroids a run for their money and sounding vaguely like the soundtrack from a mid-nineties cartoon about racing around the world on jetskis. Especially "Sidewinder", which takes the term victory laps to an entirely different level.

Where a band like Explosions In The Sky takes the instrumental thing to a place of variety and exploration, Fang Island focuses on making one style sound as fun as possible. It appears that most of the record centers around one central idea, or riff, and acts as a musical exercise in theme and variation. This is what led me to conclude that Fang Island is purposely beating our senses with their energetic sprints, to make a point. Obviously they have fun making this type of music, who wouldn't? But in order for it to transcend "homage" status and become something both credible and enjoyable, they needed to add layers to what they've been saying. And since they don't really "say" anything, they had to do it through song.

All the extra details work in tandem with their sound. The only additional element to their wily thrashing is a sound clip of fireworks, which bookends the record (appearing both at the start and during the final minutes of "Dorian". It suggests that the entire record is just a light show, loud and boisterous, thrilling and fleeting. It sounds a lot like the anthem of the record, one of the only truly discernible sung phrases: "They are all within my reach/they are free". Most of the lyrics that follow stick to the aesthetic of carefree flight, "that's alright" and "it don't matter", among other sentiments. For a band that has assigned itself as an island, they sure do spend a lot of time flying through the air.

Fang Island is too niche for the radio, and too smart for the forgotten shelf. But I anticipate the chatter to quickly move towards the live show. The band's buzz blew up after SXSW, where after hearing the record, people saw the fireworks in person. If anything, it reminds us that the music doesn't need to dark to be artistic, records are records, and that we should be having just as much listening as the band is having on stage and in the studio.-joe puglisi

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MP3:"Daisy" - Fang Island
Fang Island on Myspace



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