Mar 24, 2009

Face Control-Handsome Furs

Firstly, this is a damn enjoyable album. Secondly, it's not as good as "Plague Park". Thirdly, I will play this album a lot this year. The first release from Handsome Furs was stellar and sublime. Full of heart and fire, meaning and substance. "Plague Park" was one of THE releases of 2007. Dan Boeckner welded his heart stopping guitar to the metronomic beats of Alexei Perry, with a purpose and a meaning. The album was concerned with isolation and desolation, a sign of our times. The couple return with "Face Control", inspired by another journey into Eastern Europe. For those not in the know 'Face Control' is the practice of denying entry into Russian nightclubs. That is, if you are not attractive enough you don't get in. This practice informs this album, the feeling that certain areas of society are closed to the select few, the privileged. Dan and Alexei are concerned with the cracks in between, the areas of society where life is a struggle and human connection is hard to achieve. This makes the subject dark, but conversely the music is hyperactive, upbeat and exciting. If musically it lacks the gravitas of "Plague Park", this album is still one hell of a fun ride.

This album doesn't really have any weak points, it's so full of energy and life that each song has something to offer. "Legal Tender" starts things off nicely. It's that steady and unrelenting beat, before the synth overflows that gets you in. Boeckner's vocals come in perfectly, giving us a perfect rush. "Evangeline" is an early highlight, a great example of the maturation of Dan's vocals. They are vulnerable, yet powerful. Earthbound and totally authentic. Also, the guitar work is totally exemplary, thrusting and parrying back and forth with the drum machine. The album continues on, whether it's the pulsating "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues" or the New Order influenced "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything", it's all pretty vital and exciting. Only "I'm Confused" comes across as too simplistic, too easy to enjoy properly. Where the album really soars though are on two stand out tracks. "Nyet Spasiba" is stark and yearning. It aches, especially on the section of Joy Division-like guitars. Then "Radio Kaliningrad" closes, leaving the best to last. This song is dynamic and powerful, a reminder of the synergy and energy that these two artists can create. And there is a real synergy between Boeckner and Perry. Their bond informs their music and emits like a beacon shining to their captive audience. "Face Control" is a worthy successor to their amzing debut. Yes, it's not quite as good, nor maybe as profound. But it is undeniably great listening. This won't be the best album released in 2009, but it will demand heavy and often rotation.


  • At March 25, 2009 , Blogger James said...

    I'm with you Wayne, and I'm at a loss that a lot of reviews are saying that Face Control is much better than Plague Park. PP was one of my favorites of 07 and I feel a lot of the elements that made it so special are missing from face control. it's good and very listenable, but i was hoping for more from it. But I think you nailed it by saying they saved the best for last on this one - Radio Kaliningrad is killer.

  • At March 25, 2009 , Anonymous Tim said...

    I think Face Control is better than PP, and I'll also be playing this a lot this year. I disagree with James, maybe we saw something different that was 'special' in PP, but to me it was special because of how sparse and raw it sounded while still being brilliant. To me, Face Control keeps the sparseness of PP but adds a whole lot more energy. Hope these guys get out here soon. Wolf Parade could come down, Dan could bring Alexei and we'd have the best few days ever.


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