After more than a decade of insisting it would never happen, post-hardcore legends Far have reunited for a new album, At Night We Live, out May 18 via Vagrant.
The decision to reignite the fire they put out in 1998 arose from a few conversations in guitarist Shaun Lopez’s backyard, and a few messy rehearsals that reminded the guys how much they enjoyed actually playing together, bringing the soundscapes they’d created to life.
It wasn’t a contrived boardroom decision. There was no label, no publicity, no management team. The initial plan was to play a few shows, hit a few festivals and have fun. They even recorded a hilarious cover of Ginuwine’s Pony, just for the hell of it. But then that little joke song got noticed. And then it exploded, and all hell broke loose.
Inspired and confused by the maniacal enthusiasm for the song, the idea of a full-fledged reunion started bouncing around in conversation. Lopez began sending frontman Jonah Matranga a few demos to work on, and between a handful of casual shows, trips to Lopez’s studio in Los Angeles were made. After several months and thousands of miles, At Night We Live was completed.
First impressions are deceptive with At Night We Live, as opener Deafening is among the most brooding and aggressive tracks on the album. It’s an anthemic, blasting declaration of return, with an alternating soaring/roaring chorus over a menacing, percussive beehive riff.
The muscle facade immediately gives way on If You Cared Enough, with a chorus like War-era U2 and Monster-days REM thrown in a blender. As evidenced here, the album quickly proves itself to be a beautifully-produced and logical next step for a band with a new perspective & motivation after a (very) long hiatus. There’s no posturing or pandering, but rather a delicately melodic offering with dynamic arrangement and impressive pop sensibility.
With a bare, earnest heart and gravitational catchiness, Give Me A Reason is reminder enough that arena bands like Jimmy Eat World and 30 Seconds To Mars should be opening for Far. The same can be said for Burns, a so-sad-to-let-you-go wringing of the heart – in a spiteful sort of way. “It left me so jaded, unhappy, all complicated”… if anyone you know ever tries to discredit Far as pioneering torch-bearers of emo, play them this song.
The dream-epic title track At Night We Live does more than casually nod to the Deftones’ gorgeous dark-melody style with an aching radiance – the song is directly connected to their bassist Chi Cheng, who was left incapacitated after a 2008 car accident and is still struggling to make a return to normalcy. (Watch a beautiful acoustic version of the track.)
“I had a dream about Chi,” Jonah recalls. “I had to visit him a few times, so I am sure he is a part of it. He looks really good, well kept, sitting up in a chair device. His eyes are open and I can look directly into them, but they don’t react. He is there but we don’t know how to get in touch with him. In the dream, the remarkable thing I remember is his eyes. Shaun’s sister died a while back and I thinking of her, as much as this is for and about Chi, the idea of that central hook, ‘Daytime we’re dead, at night we live.’ If people are gone, that dream was as real as anything. I felt like hanging out with Chi. Who’s to say I wasn’t?”
The most prominent callback to Far’s signature ’90s sound is Fight Song #16,233,241, with bouncing blasts and punk gang vocals recorded by dozens of people around the world and submitted via the internet. Equally punchy Dear Enemy is likely the biggest radio contender on the record, a mildly sneering elbow to the ribs that leads into a gorgeously dissonant chorus with a cascading melody. The simmering mix of affection and animosity in Jonah’s voice is anything but inauthentic; the song was finished after an epic fight between he and Lopez.
The Ghost That Kept on Haunting runs nearly eight minutes in length, a sweeping, reflective take on longing for the lost that serves as a sort of hybrid between Nine Inch Nails and Band Of Horses. The first song Lopez wrote for the album, it breaks into a full gallop a minute and a half in but remains on a different exploratory angle than the other tracks.
“I was being selfish and wanted to write what I wanted to write,” Lopez explained about the song. “I never thought Jonah would sing over this. I’m into this band M83 and the feeling they give me and I wanted to get that into a song.”
With more than a few radio-friendly tracks that appeal to modern markets, it’s a safe prediction that At Night We Live will part the clouds and bring due attention to these revived legends. There’s no punchy Mother Mary anchor to launch a mass consensus, and that’s a good thing. There aren’t any sale-trick gimmicks here – this is a band that preceded the hyperbolic scene divisions, and their undeniable influence on various facets of today’s music scene allows them to effortlessly transcend the genre boxes.
It’s promising enough that At Night We Live is an accessible album for the historically unaware, but fans of Far will find a familiar home with a release that’s a calmly confident, passionate and powerful return to the sound we knew so long ago.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.