Built to Spill
03. Seek it Out
04. Make Me
05. Never Understand
07. Dooney Rock
10. Chime Out
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Fang Island’s self-titled debut was summer burned to a disc. It was indomitable, intensely catchy, and largely instrumental, which made its infectiousness even more impressive. Channeling both indie and math rock, boasting big guitars and big melodies, and punching with well-placed choruses of vocals at just the right moments, Fang Island snuck its way onto my year end list—and many others, I imagine.
Major is arguably just as sunny and positive, as open and welcoming, but immediately less mathy and challenging; Major is, quite remarkably, a more concentrated effort at crafting structured rock songs that feature a consistent bevy of vocals. Whereas vocals used to be tactical injections of fun, most songs on Major are built around layers of vocals that repeat a couple phrases, like mantras. The big, buzzy guitars remain, but have been focused into pulsing anthemic riffs. With how often the vocals repeat, and how often the riffs mirror the vocals, Major strays into broken record territory. It’s not an album for people who like dense, progressive, meandering tracks. Each song is pretty tight and, for lack of a more flattering word, redundant.
Sometime around “Asunder,” every song begins to sound the same. Same formula, same result, diminished return. “Asunder” may be a bitchin' song in its own right with a great kick drum backbone, but in the context of an album full of songs that adhere to nearly prefab constructions, the 5-minute-plus song repeats a few times too many. It’s a smaller example of the redundancy that hinders Major on the whole.
But then “Dooney Rock” blows it and every other track on Major right out of the water. Surprisingly, it’s instrumental. The folky, plucky first half wakes up the part of your brain that went to sleep a few songs ago just in time to appreciate the almost power rock second half in all its glory. For a few glorious minutes, Fang Island meets Deliverance, and then DragonForce.
It’s disappointing how good “Dooney Rock” is, because just like “Asunder,” it’s a stunningly clear example of how Major could be ten times better than it actually is. I’m not asking Fang Island to ditch the vocals or break out of their tightly structured songs, all I want is more of the kooky variety that made their debut album so irresistible. It’s almost as if when Fang Island recorded Major, they misplaced the wizard outfit for every song but “Dooney Rock.” Embrace the wizard, Fang Island. Embrace it.