Senses Fail – Renacer album review

Hard rock, bordering on metal, or maybe the other way around. It doesn’t matter. Either way, the result is the same. You get an incredibly technically proficient guitarist and drummer, an alcoholic to play bass and someone with parent issues to scream into a mic. The apparent goal of this kind of music is to empathize with the anger and frustrations of angry and frustrated people. The guitarist, in this mode, is then tasked with using all the tricks in his book to anger his audience. Take all your best techniques, do them as quickly as possible, and make them as unpleasant and cacophonous as possible. On a very basic level, this is what metal music does. It makes being angry okay. It encourages anger. It says to the audience, “be loud, be furious, form a pit and push the crap out of each other.” It should be noted, that this type of music is generally fairly difficult to play. I have a friend who swears by an avante garde metal band called Kayo Dot. Lots of people love this kind of music. I do not. 

I am of the classic mindset. Art is meant to please. Music is an art form meant to please.  Somewhere in the 1960’s, (actually before that, experimental music was very much alive in the early 20th century, but it was entirely underground and unsupported because the Traditionalist generation had this rare thing called common sense) Yoko Ono came along and decided that art meant challenging people’s expectations. She did some weird stuff with blood, feathers and white sheets and signaled to the world that it was possible to make a reputation off of any idea that fell out of your anus. Coupling her retardation with the fact that media distribution was easy, a new wave of art came forward that was essentially “nonsense for the sake of being different.” I theorize that this is where metal came from. We can’t all be musical masters, so some people threw on some face paint, make an awful lot of noise and called themselves KISS. 

There is something to be said for that kind of innovation. I’m glad the people in the sixties tried it. What I can’t stand is the diluted, “kid friendly” versions of it we get today. The kinds of groups who want to appeal to the KISS generation, but at the same time want to grow Justin Beiber hair and attack that daughter demographic. It is a bastardization of a mutation. 

Senses Fail (Does the name inspire much confidence?) was started on the Internet in New Jersey. Do I have to say much more? I guess…

The lead singer “Buddy,” says, “We needed to change it up, do something different and move forward.” Unfortunately for “Buddy,” theses songs may be new to the Failed Senses, but they, like many other songs, have been done before. They’ve been done since the days of prog rock. That’s all prog rock did. Buddy concludes his thought by saying, “If you want something to sound heavy, it’s about the space, not necessarily just the chord structures or the screaming.” This is indicative of a man who has run out of ideas. Any first year music student will tell you, mood is created by the melody structured on top of the chord progression coupled with dynamics and tempo. In other words, screaming on top of chords. 

He is telling the world that the variety of music coming from Senses Fail will rely almost entirely on the producer and sound engineers as opposed to the musicianship of the… musicians. The “space” he is talking about is the studio in Los Angeles their label has set them up in. I can understand this kind of thinking from a top 40 pop artist. Those kinds of songs require a strict format. When you only really have four chords to work with, you have to spend a lot of time with counterpoint and texture to create a level of difference let alone innovation. Metal and hardcore bands are suppose to go against that kind of thinking, not adopt it. What is the point of playing “rage against the man/institution music” IF YOU FREELY ADMIT YOU ARE USING THE SAME TRICKERY? The idea of anger in music manifests itself as being justified in its complication. “My anger is complex, manic, uncontrollable and loud and therefore so is my music.” The music, by extension, tended to be fairly complicated and technically difficult. The content reflected the mindset. Senses Fail do not/doesn’t/don’t do that. They take the essense and simplify. It misses the point.

I feel bad for the Senses Fail members. Most bands who form when they’re fifteen disbanded and get real jobs. The mediocrity of their success has meant that they are now most likely past the point where they can go back to trade school. I would absolutely hate to see these folks when they are fifty. The reunion tour. The comeback album. Going on PBS. 

Overall: There is a mentally infuriating principle in mathematics known as the imaginary number. It is a value, which if squared, creates a negative. It is a confounding concept that can infuriate many, and does not serve a function in the experience of direct space-time beyond serving as a reference point for theoretical physicists in imaginary space-time. (don’t get me started) I think this is an appropriate metaphor for Senses Fail, if their name doesn’t describe it well enough. They aren’t worth paying attention to. I don’t think they pay attention to themselves. If they serve any purpose, it is to indicate on the trajectory of music as a whole, the movement towards the pop sensibilities that as permeated almost all forms of music. Thanks South Korea. I don’t know how, but somehow this is your fault. 

By Eric Wong

Eric is a writer from San Francisco. Being Asian, he was forcibly inducted into classical music and choirs at a young age. So clearly, he knows what he's talking about.

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