Live Show Review: Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Although we’re going to have to wait to see the full Failure documentary until 2023, for the 2022 segments of said cinematic biography of the band screened in lieu of an opening act for many if not all dates. In a sense the testimonials of Hayley Williams of Paramore, Margaret Cho, Jason Schwartzman, Tommy Lee, Maynard Keenan, David Dastmalchian, Troy Sanders of Mastodon, Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, Matt Pinfield, Butch Vig of Garbage and Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups opened the show with pithy and often poetic commentary on the impact of Failure on their lives and their music. And as compelling as these tidbits were they were a simple approximation of the band the way a written review can only be an abstraction of the visceral impact of the music and Failure’s gift for emotionally gripping, cinematic soundscapes as songs.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Often a band will have the drummer placed in the background but not so with Failure on this tour or on recent tours and maybe going back to the beginning. No, Kellii Scott is the engine and the glue that holds together Greg Edwards’ quiet intense energy as a musician and Ken Andrews’ more luminously volatile yet introspective expansiveness. It’s what makes the contradictions of the band’s music make sense and come together as forcefully and as gracefully as it does.

Ken Andrews of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Perhaps it was Margaret Cho who sagely referred to this music as “Space Goth” as it was melodramatic and dark and dreamlike, conflicted, gritty and ambient, industrial beats feeding into an evolving sonic infrastructure. There was something elegant in the underlying menace of so many of the songs and a sense that each song could scorch out from within. It all felt like it was on the precipice of an all consuming abyss and yet buoyed up by a desperate yet fatigued hope. The first two thirds of the set drew largely from the earlier albums and the more recent records and all of it seemed like a grand adventure through harrowing emotional spaces and built into each a thread of the promise of catharsis. And it all lead to the end of the show featuring the the final third of Fantastic Planet. “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” “Another Space Song,” “Stuck on You,” “Heliotropic” and “Daylight” were an arc of songs that felt mythic and like the kind of science fiction story you wish someone could make into a movie instead of the corny claptrap that passes for genre most of the time because it doesn’t often contain the weight of emotion and penetrating self-examination contained in those five songs. In the context of the album it was like hearing the epic conclusion of a classic science fiction trilogy but with modern sensibilities—like an art rock band helmed by Clifford Simak and A.E. Van Vogt.

Kellii Scott of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Greg Edwards of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

If you weren’t already completely drawn in by the whirlpool of melodic fuzz of “Another Space Song” then the strains of “Stuck on You” obliterated that resistance on into the tone grinder and transformative rumblings of “Heliotropic” and toward the epic heights and mythical denouement of “Daylight.” It was a musical experience that makes you forget other bands matter for a few days and that Failure had played the Bluebird Theater and not some gaudy enormodome like Ball or Wembley Arena because the music felt built for that scale.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

London Plane Tries to Coax Disaffected Visionaries and Creatives From Self-Imposed Exile on “Come Out of the Dark”

London Plane, photo courtesy the artists

London Plane employs a lo-fi sensibility on its psychedelic post-punk single “Come Out of the Dark.” With the imaginative music video for the song one gets a taste of what feels like a more humanized science fiction concept album that is its new record Bright Black (which released on June 17, 2022). It’s not really comparable sonically or songwriting-wise to Failure’s 1997 masterpiece Fantastic Planet. But conceptually and in terms of how some of the imagery and language used makes for a more colorful storytelling and the ability to tell stories of human psychology and relationships in ways that don’t seem hackneyed or trite. “Come Out of the Dark” deftly incorporates electric and acoustic guitar with synths, drums, bass and poignant vocals for an effect like Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Dazzle” but repurposed as more modern indie pop space rock song. The easy sweep from major chord progression to minor and back throughout the song at unexpected points enhances the emotional impact of its layered melodies. The message of the song encouraging a specific person or the generalized you for whoever needs to hear the words to stop being disengaged, jaded and above it all when you can “be cool” and “come out of the dark” and “be adored,” “Be a defender,” “be a hero.” Yet the tenor of the song is one of understanding of a desire to disconnect with the world and events and community because of how it can wear you down or alienate but if you have some great personal qualities and skills and knowledge it’s wasted in wallowing in cynicism and bitterness when you can enjoy putting that all into the world in a productive way. Even if only a little. The music video is like something that Panos Cosmatos would make if he were in the business of such things and really captures a desire for isolation when the human community needs people of creativity and imagination more than ever. Watch the video on YouTube and follow London Plane at the links below.

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