Like the Heart, this album is a monster. Words cannot effectively express how much I missed this band. Fantastic Planet, released back in 96, was a big part of my musical growth as a kid. It’s still hard to believe they were gone so long, but they are back and better than ever. It’s unusual that bands make a sequel to their own record, and even more rare when the sequel takes 20 years to make. They did it. They were able to capture the brilliance of Fantastic Planet and make it better. They had segues, distortion, and the same power as they once did. They don’t have much in the room for filler, and it’s smooth and flows very well. I missed you, Failure, and I’m so happy you’re back in my life.
It’s been 19 short years at the initial writing of this review, now 20 looking back at it, and boy are they are back. Although they’re now back together, we knew they would be returning in 2014, and that they would be releasing an album. Amazingly enough, it happens to be a direct sequel to one of my favorite albums of my childhood, Fantastic Planet. Fantastic Planet was a quintessential space rock/alternative rock album by this criminally underrated band, and I would easily have it on my “ten 90’s albums that every person should listen to once before they die” list. You may have heard some of their music without knowing it was them, but they have a very distinct sound. The twangy guitar, the spacey sound, the listless yet powerful vocals…the whole experience. They never got quite the exposure or commercial acclaim that they deserved, but they made a large impression in their three albums in the 90’s.
This is their sound. Almost 20 years later, they have practically the same sound which is completely fine by me. I don’t know if a band like this can “evolve” like others I talk about because where does a band go from here? It’s a tough argument because the only way I can think of that they can expand to other subjects. Fantastic Planet was about space, and its sequel, The Heart is a Monster, goes deep inside the human body instead of throughout the galaxy. The human body is incredibly complicated, and the heart is indeed a monster, so I think the complexity of this album topically and I feel like I was having a Fantastic Voyage while listening to this album. That has always been my experience with Failure – I feel like I’m going exploring through space and time and whatever else while I listen to them.
In addition to big tracks like Counterfeit Sky, which is now posted above, the segues in the album are a real highlight for me. They break up the intensity and feel like you’re travelling through passages in the heart and mind to arrive at a new section with a new track or two. They get it so right that it blows me away. I can barely remember what I was doing 20 years ago, and they not only remember it all but they can recreate it and add to it. Imagine writing a story, finishing half of it, and then coming back to it 20 years later to write the other half the same way. They did learn new things as they’ve been away, and did play around with new techniques and have some new technology at their disposal, but at their core they have the same heart. It’s a monster. I feel I can get away with saying that more than once in the review based on the album title.
It doesn’t sound repetitive, and the only criticism of this album is with the track Atom City Queen. The distorted shrill of the guitar would work for part of a song or for a solo, but for an entire four minute track, it tends grates. It almost got to the point that I had to skip past it when I was going over this album again and again. It is a unique sound but upon further listens, I may have to move past it even though I will lose a valuable part of the story. I won’t go into the story, but suffice it to say love is a complicated messy nightmarish thing, and you can hear it in this album. I don’t want to keep using the word heart in all these different contexts but it happens to be so appropriate that I can’t not. The heartbreak is audible and readily apparent, but it doesn’t bring me down like some of the other albums I’ve written about this year. It takes me on a journey instead.
To sum it all up, “The Heart is a Monster” is a monster. This album is big, both personally and to the music world. THIS is a comeback album. I know The Magic Whip is also a big one this year, but to take 20 years off and come back to blow the doors off is huge. This may be the year of the comeback, and I’m fine with that. As long as it’s not the year of the remake, I’m good. I am having a hard time putting my joy and satisfaction to words because this is like something from my childhood was revived and NOT destroyed (cough ninja turtles cough). I’ll put it to a scale instead to quantify my feelings for you: this album deserves 14 Ratings Units out of 15. It staves off perfection with Atom City Queen, but otherwise, the second part of the album starting from Segue 5 is just everything I hoped it would be. It flows together smoothly, and it just felt right. It hit all of the memory nodes I had for Failure’s Fantastic Planet and amplified them, and for that I am thankful.