Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Handsome Furs - Face Control Review

After much anticipation,
Face Control
finally hits shelves today

Go here for my first impressions of this album that I posted a while back, but just for a little more reiteration of how awesome this album is, I thought I'd rework/expand on the previous review now that I've had ample time to make up my mind on how I feel about this record.

Face Control is the second LP from husband/wife duo Handsome Furs. The album was released through Sub Pop Records, and it's official release date is today (March 10, 2009). Like its predecessor Plague Park, Face Control is stripped down rock in its purest form, though it relies heavily on the influences of 1980s electro-pop.

Alexie Perry's improved skills on the drum machine are very apparent in this second attempt. She alone makes up the rhythm section on every song, utilizing dark and menacing hooks and a vast array of percussion sounds. Her mastery as a musician shines through on this album, with more textures and composition than any of her previous work. Meanwhile, Dan Boeckner (also of Wolf Parade and Atlas Strategic) provides the pipes and jams for this record, creating eerie, fuzzed-out riffs reminiscent of the Eastern European block - suffice to say, his contribution is as solid as ever. And with a great follow-up to their amazing debut, Handsome Furs have truly affirmed themselves as a great band, period. To label Handsome Furs as merely a "Boeckner side-project" is not only a slap in the face to Perry's contributions, but it's also a gross generalization of this separate and entirely original entity.

Looking at the album in more detail, Face Control has three movements, each separated by a short, instrumental bridge. The album, and subsequent first movement, opens with Euro-dance grooved "Legal Tender" and immediately hits the ground running. This song has been a concert staple for over a year, and it's clear that they've made the right changes to get this song just right. The momentum carries through to the next track, "Evangeline", and this song kicks so much ass. I'd heard it performed live twice, but the studio version sounds amazing - lots of textures in this number, including some brooding, dark synth-overtones that really stand out. The first movement ends with the pseudo-title track "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues", which features the lyric "there was a guy who came in from the cold, but he's never going to get past face control..."

Trasitioning via "Passport Kontrol" (perhaps a shout-out to the US border fiasco), we see a lighter, second movement. "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything", a song that delayed the release of the album due to legal issues, evokes almost feelings of hope - like [we're in this mess together, but we'll get through it]. The next track is the album's first single "I'm Confused" - which is the most accessible track on the record. It's a fast-paced rocker with a fun chorus. There's a slight lull in the action with the light and bouncy "White City," but the record picks back up with the uplifting "Nyet Spasiba." On this record, the listener will find that The Furs are also experimenting with new sounds: the next song, "Officer of Hearts," features bongo drums in the mix.

After the instrumental dreamscape "It's Not Me It's You" (the infamous track 10 that was absent from the internet leak), the last movement, which consists of two sweet songs, commences with "Thy Will Be Done". This song is sooo catchy, you'll have "THY WILL BE DONE!" on repeat in your head after just one listen. This beautiful album comes to a close with "Radio Kaliningrad" - a song that showcases the too-underapreciated synthesized bag pipes (which sound a lot like Church's "Under the Milky Way Tonight"). It's a very nice touch that polishes off the end of the record, but it leaves you wanting more.

All in all, I'd have to say it's the Handsome Furs' strongest release to date. This album is much more rock-driven compared to Plague Park, and it's also more uplifting. I'm not necessarily saying that Plague Park was a downer, but every time after listening to Face Control, my spirits just seem a little bit higher. The end result is one great sophomore effort - better than their fantastic debut. God, I love this band! But don't take my word for - go pick up a copy today.

To stream the entire album, head over to their MySpace page. If you're in the Midwest or Europe, check out their live show at a venue near you (here).

MP3: Handsome Furs - "I'm Confused"
(buy Face Control)


Anonymous said...

i was perusing the onion in Denver the other day and came across this review: http://www.avclub.com/articles/handsome-furs,24835/

Brutal! The onion seems to employ pretty tough reviewers though. Perhaps it's all the sarcasm and pessimism floating around in there.