Far | At Night We Live (Vagrant)

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The vocals are clean and sung, not screamed; the music’s layered and rich; the album’s a varied yet cohesive listen, one that grows richer the more it’s heard.

 
If you’re reading this review to find out what a longtime Far fan thinks of the reunited band’s new album, you’re in the wrong place. All I know of Far is this: (1) Jonah Matranga’s the singer; following the band’s dissolution, he performed under the monikers Gratitude and onelinedrawing. (2) This is Far’s first new release in 12 years. Oh, and Amazon.com classifies them as “alt-metal.” Whaaaaa??
I don’t know what Far used to sound like, but the closest comparison I can give for At Night We Live is Moneen: it’s melodic rock, sometimes heavier, sometimes poppier. The vocals are clean and sung, not screamed; the music’s layered and rich; the album’s a varied yet cohesive listen, one that grows richer the more it’s heard.
Just to remind you this is Far (I’m assuming), At Night We Live begins with the full-on guitar assault of the aptly titled “Deafening.” It’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit Nirvana, a little bit cock rock—but still, somehow, inviting. With “If You Cared Enough,” you begin to see the melodic pop influences. The vocals—alternately yearning, anthemic and echo-y—are near perfect, as is the disparity between a single strummed guitar and the wall of sound. This is a soaring rock anthem, make no mistake.
Matranga sounds almost British on the haunting “When I Could See,” a song dripping with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”-era Bauhaus influences. The absolutely killer “Give Me a Reason” alternates between upbeat storytelling and cacophonous harmony; during the former, Matranga sings, “I’m a house on fire/ I’m a crowded street/ sure you’re sweet/ but I’m not in the mood.” Harshly strummed guitars give way to more Matranga-led harmony and soaring vocals on “Dear Enemy”; you can tell he’s genuine even as he’s protesting.
You have to give Far credit for naming a song “Fight Song #16,233,241”; these guys have nothing if not a sense of humor. This one’s full of harder-edged, in-your-face, unrelenting rock noise; gang vocals add to the warrior feel of this song. Midway through the album we get the title track and, as you’d expect, it’s fantastic. The lines Matranga sings in the stanzas are echoed for emphasis; when he launches into the refrain (the mere four words of the title), his voice positively soars. Put this one on your night-driving summer playlist, now.
“How can I put it? You’re fucking dead to me.” Yep, with “Burns” we’re back on the other side of the rock ‘n’ roll. Why is it a good angry song never gets old? This one’s fast-paced, sure, but also often mellower than the first line—delivered over scorching guitars—would suggest. Far keeps the tempo up with “Better Surrender,” though a melodic guitar line weaves through the hard-hit drums. “Are You Sure?” takes a page right out of the punk rock handbook; racing guitars and time signatures, anyone?
Matranga’s vocals are aching and sometimes fuzzy on “The Ghost That Kept on Haunting”; this one’s more on the indie side of the rock spectrum, kids. It’s lovely and intriguing, recalling the sadly underrated Black Lab (look ’em up if you’re not familiar; you can thank me later). Last up, “Pony” is almost dance-floor ready. Odd, electronic swipes lend a slightly experimental feel to the song, despite its fairly standard rock skeleton. It puts the lid on an amazing comeback album by a band that, obviously, had not yet reached its pinnacle. If we’re lucky, there’s far more mountain ahead of us. A | Laura Hamlett
RIYL: Moneen, Black Lab, Stone Temple Pilots
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