How Far Our Bodies Go
've actually been wrestling with Fake Problems' sort-of debut (there was an earlier record, but if you're not in Florida it's pretty hard to get) for quite a while, because there's little point expressing annoyance with a record if you can't explain it. Annoyance, along with humor and lust, is a phenomenon that's so individual as to be uncommunicable except in those instants that the whole human race seems to share in a particular example; this being the end of summer, I'm thinking of mosquito bites.
In many ways How Far Our Bodies Go is an accomplished record for the band to be making their bow with, one that mixes alt-country, indie, and hardcore touches into a blend that seems perfectly natural for the duration (although never the full-on Blood Brothers style spazz-out the album art suggests). The album flows much better than most debuts, and not just because of the included interlude, reprise, and “preprise” that tie the mostly quick, short tunes together. It's kind of rare to find such a brash, confident voice this early in an act's career, and Chris Ferren and his friends clearly have a shitload of fun staking their claim. It's just that their voice bugs the shit out of me.
Second track “Born & Raised” is the best example, and even after dozens of listens it's still a track I have a hard time getting past. Ferren howls out purported autobiography over a frantic country punk hybrid, but he keeps getting bogged down in minutiae. The sense I get from it, every single time, is “why does this guy think I care about his thoughts about how he'd treat his commanding officer if he joined the army, or why he thinks he might go back to college?” But that's not fair, as close parsing of Ferren's lyrics reveal nothing more self-obsessed than ten other bands I do find endearing. As I can't explain my distaste I'm going to give up and let it stand as a caveat.
As the record goes on it gets less self-aggrandizing, occasionally quieter and more accomplished. Centerpiece and standout “To Repel Ghosts” towers over everything else, a full minute and twenty seconds longer than any other song, which lets the band slowly edge into its massive, fiddle-assisted hook. Even then the track has an awkward cast to it; the massed yell of “You're afraid of the dark! / You're afraid of the dark! / And you know as well as I know that you're afraid!” has only the most tangential/oblique connection to the rest of the song, which is mostly about our weird fascination with the collision of entertainment and gossip. The song strains in its later verses to connect our fear of death to our celebrity obsessions, and if it doesn't quite work it's at least an interesting failure.
“To Repel Ghosts” marks the point on the album, in fact, where Fake Problems' efforts start having more rewarding results. “Cold on the Soul” and “Heck Yeah Summer!” are fantastical, opposite-season accounts of what could be the same story, and “Life's a Drink, Get Thirsty!” boasts the bands' most sinuous verse and crunchiest chorus, all in the same song. The exclamation points in the last two songs are ample indication of the very real gusto that Farren and the rest of Fake Problems bring to these songs, making them kind of like a less political, North American equivalent of Brakes circa their first album. If they can modulate their overeagerness and guilessness without losing the bounding enthusiasm for the whole rock music thing that make parts of How Far Our Bodies Go captivating, “To Repel Ghosts” will no longer seem like a bit of a fluke.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2007-09-07