Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Failure - Fantastic Planet - 1996

Holy crap, Failure is on tour. They've reunited. Goddamn.

I'm fairly certain most of you don't know who Failure were/are, but you absolutely should. They should've been a massive success, and it's always bugged me that they weren't. "Fantastic Planet" should've been that moment when they took the world by storm, but instead, it appeared and disappeared without so much as anyone batting an eyelash, and the band was gone not long after. A lot of this (but not all of it) was due to Slash, their label within the Warner Brothers music collective being, for lack of a better description, a fucking mess. In a lot of ways, Failure were sort of the 90's analogy for the Velvet Underground. They weren't widely known or liked, but the people who knew them were always big champions, and a lot of them started (or were in) bands. Tool brought them on tour a bunch (including recently!) and Adam Jones, Tool's guitarist, would often come on stage to play a song with them.

Failure's greatest strength has always been the genius sounds of Ken Andrews' guitar work. Andrews has gone on to be in a million and one side projects, and has also engineered/produced/mixed/remixed even more. Musicians love collaborating with Andrews, because the dude paints sonic textures. He does things with guitars in the same way that someone like Tom Morello does - the guitar itself transforms into something even bigger and better than when it started, distorted beyond compare. This isn't to say Andrews is the only person in Failure who matters. Oh HELL no. Greg Edwards plays a mean heavy bass, and Kellii Scott knows how to let the drums bash around the sound.

Failure were, in many ways, the transformation of grunge into something spacier, more cosmic. I tried describing "Fantastic Planet" at one point when I was younger as what would've happened if Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins had tried to split the difference - psychedelia mixed in with big, heavy sounds and relaxed, unhurried sound. "Stuck On You," the video above, was a very minor alternative hit, but the band never seemed to get the attention it deserved. The band is reunited for a tour, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let them pass by without seeing them live. Hopefully they put together a new album. Andrews has learned a lot of new tricks over the years, and I'd love to see what he and the guys would put out now...

Also, there was absolutely no way I was going to write about Failure without writing about this. Failure recorded the greatest cover song of all time. I don't make this claim lightly, but after you hear it, I think you'll be hard pressed to disagree. See, I remember picking up my copy of "For The Masses," a collection of Depeche Mode cover songs, back in college, because I love me a good cover song, and there were a number of people I liked on it - The Cure, The Smashing Pumpkins and Failure. But man, I did not expect Failure's version of "Enjoy The Silence" to be so insanely gorgeous. There have been reports that Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode's keyboard, actually prefers Failure's version to the theirs, and that wouldn't surprise me. Right around the one minute mark, the song climbs from slinky seduction to in-your-face cosmic power infinity guitars, and wait for the three and a half minute where the tubular reedy guitar comes in to bring the song to a close.

 I literally cannot stop playing this song to completion any time it comes on.

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