Facing New York - Get Hot
Record Label: Five One Inc.
Release Date: Sept. 23, 2008
Facing New York is a three-piece band from San Francisco that formed as a quintet in 2004 blending progressive rock, indie rock and punk. But then things shifted. Keyboardist Rene Carranza left the band in 2006 on amicable terms to pursue other inerests and in 2008 the band's guitarist and co-founder Matthew Fazzi left the band to join the ranks of Taking Back Sunday. Their sophomore album Get Hot marks their first creative output since the new shift to a trio. The band cites The Police, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan and Parliament as some of their many influences and each of these four is felt quite deeply on this release.
Opening track "Cops on Bikes" is a page straight out of the Cake songbook, with a spoken-word, hip-hop swagger and a staccato synth. But is a song about throwing rocks at cops really worth celebrating? Sure it's humorous and good for a laugh, but how can you take a band seriously with a song like this? The band continues the lackadaisical approach on "Me N' My Friend," a song that details college freshmen juggling their sex lives. So does that make this a frat-rock album or a Will Ferrell movie soundtrack?
Pushing away from the lyrical fodder and focusing on the musicality is where the band is worthy of at least a few libations. As a musical product its engaging, detailed and intense. Get Hot is a spastic amalgamation that blends humor, confusion, heterosexuality and effortless musicianship into something truly original. ]That is to say there aren't many bands out there creating music like this. But for all those high points it's still not exactly a masterwork.
"All 'a This" is drum-heavy and pop-inspired and one of the album's standouts, but the 70s funk of "How Gong I'm Gonna Be Lawn" is an absolute disaster. I'm still trying to figure out what the title means? The band tries out 70s funk again on "Hardwood Floors" and is a lot more successful, but it's still a bit too forced. Much in the same way that Illinois' Dr. Manhattan rewrote the rule book on their self-titled, Facing New York goes for the same concept. There's an assortment of epic build-ups and mind-bending guitar leads, most notably on the cascading "Gesture" and the percussive "Comin' Up," but much like "Hardwood Floors," it all feels like a bit too much.
When the band tries to bring together memorable melodies and catchy hooks, they aren't always that successful. The keyboards are smooth and airy and the rhythms are unique and artful, but vocalist Eric Fredic doesn't have the vocal chops to carry a record. Being that this is the band's first effort with a new lineup, one can't exactly be disappointed. But to call it the best of their career (as many outlets have) might be pushing it. Yes, there's enough here to recognize glimmers of talent and polish, but being vague, sophisticated and scatterbrain just for the sake of calling it avant-garde isn't something to applaud, nor something that makes a listener want to come back. Facing New York definitely has talent but probably needs a clearer focus next time out.
RIYL: Dr. Manhattan, The Dismemberment Plan, Cake and Parliament.
One of my favorite records, but I have to be honest; it took a long time. At first the whole affair can come across as hookless, especially to the impatient & disinterested listener (see: the reviewer). But it's a wholly-earnest effort, brimming with soul and completely inspired. Gets better with every listen.
this record takes patience but it's well worth it. Frederic doesn't have the vocal chops to carry a record? He's done it more than half a dozen times (not counting Wallpaper which wouldn't be the best example of his vocals).
Trying to pass any of this criticism off on the "new line-up" just shows your unfamiliarity/ignorance of the band.