Album Review: Fang Island – Fang Island

[Sargent House; 2010]

When you get reminded of the damage listening to loud music can do to your ears, you are likely to take a moment to ponder the possibility of going deaf and the implications it might bring. But you don’t really think about it for that long. Like the man who watches Food, Inc. and then goes out and buys a dozen cans of hot dogs and a whole bunch of other processed food, we’ll put our headphones in our ears once again hit play on the chosen track and have the volume at its loudest.

But sometimes you have to admit defeat. Or at least I did with Fang Island’s self titled album. I conceded that when the music really started playing on this record I had to take my ipod out of my pocket and turn the dial counter-clockwise. By telling you this I don’t mean to imply the record is unbearable or tormenting in any way – quite the contrary in fact; it’s hugely enjoyable and eccentrically zealous. But when everything has the greatest possible energy running through it – such as the climax of “Davey Crockett” or the trashing beginnings of “The Illinois” and “Treeton” – it sounds like the firecrackers that bookend the album are making a reappearance but instead have turned into full blown hogmanay fireworks display. Quite simply, Fang Island is, for the majority, a loud and boisterous affair but as said, deadly enjoyable.

Upon first listens the album will zip by but you’ll still likely enjoy it and be able to pick out the moments you can’t wait to replay (my bet is on either “Daisy” or “Sideswiper” or both). Chances are also that you’ll be able to predict the next turn in the music before you can recite it off the top of your head. Much like your favourite films repeated plays of the album will make it seem increasingly longer as you stop to enjoy a particular riff or the way the band members harmonize their vocals.

You won’t have long to stop and think though. Even though I denied the album being unbearable or abusive to your ears, it’s often relentless. This isn’t the kind of album you stop half way through and return to once you finished listening to what your friend had to say. Pretty much once the chugging guitar begins and first cymbal crashes on “Careful Crossers,” you’re unlikely to find a moment to stop and figure out where you are exactly or what just happened. The only moment that comes to mind in terms of the music letting up between tracks is when aforementioned “Davey Crockett” makes its entrance. As epic as it is at nearly six minutes, with a stadium bound vocal chant that builds almost majestically, I want to say it’s the band’s final hand after a series of great flushes but once the epic whiplash handclaps and vocals settle down, the band throws the listener into “Welcome Wagon”. Being the penultimate track and the last full blown thing here it sounds perfect when you consider this is music described by the band as the sound of “everyone high-fiving everyone.” As the band races through the song it sounds like they’re going back through the crowd meeting (and high-fiving) everyone they didn’t get a chance to greet personally.

When the band sing “they are all within my reach” on opener “Dream of Dreams” it sounds like they are ready to do anything and that the possibilities are endless and once you listen to the album you’ll likely agree with that sentiment. But even if they are just talking about being able to high-five everyone then at least be ready with an open palm for when these guys come flying by.