L.A. Alternative Rock trio Failure never quite made it the same way some of their cohorts did. In another world, they could have been as big as Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins or even touring buddies Tool. Alas, it wasn’t to be and the band parted ways in 1997.
Fast forward to today, however, and Failure are back with a new album. Crowdfunded via PledgeMusic, The Heart is a Monster (INresidence) is the band’s first album in 19 years – and first since 1996’s critically acclaimed Fantastic Planet (Slash). The trio – Ken Andrews [vocals, guitar, bass], Greg Edwards [guitar, bass, keyboards] and Kellii Scott [drums] – have rustled up an hour long journey of retro grunge/alt rock.
A combination of new tracks and recordings of songs that actually predate the band’s 1992 debut, the album fits in well with the group’s legacy without sycophantic rehashing, but also lacks focus. The album’s 18 tracks clock in at just over an hour and with six short ambient-style instrumental interludes, there’s an excessive amount of fat that could have been trimmed.
Considering the personnel involved, it’s no great surprise the band blend the quieter moments of Queens of the Stone Age and A Perfect Circle, and when it’s good, it’s an enjoyable journey, managing to be abrasive and challenging without being aggressive. The likes of ‘Hot Traveller’ or ‘Atom City Queen’ blends darkly melodic with dissonant guitars and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork (Matador) ‘The Focus’ is as close to a straight rock song as they get, while ‘I can See Houses’ could almost pass for shoegaze.
However there’s also plenty of moments that are largely uninspiring or plain forgettable. The likes of ‘Otherwhere’ feels like filler while ‘Come Crashing’ sounds like soft grunge that wouldn’t have stood out back in the 90s. Overall, it’s a dense and at times tiring listen while the large number of ‘Segue’ instrumentals become fatiguing, especially in the final third of the record.
Though it will no doubt please the fans who have been waiting almost a lifetime for a new record, I can’t say I’m overly impressed. Maybe I’m missing the nostalgia factor, but this is a really disappointing listen. After a gestation period to rival Chinese Democracy (Geffen), The Heart is a Monster is mostly underwhelming, and slightly depressing.