Further Seems Forever – Penny Black – Review

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Even though if you blinked at any time during 2001 and 2002 you might have missed Chris Carrabba‘s inclusion in Further Seems Forever (and exodus to Dashboard Confessional), the lack of his moving lyrics and swooning vocals in subsequent FSF efforts was very apparent. So after a few one-and-done records and a reunion tour or two, the band decided to reunite with their original lead singer and reinvigorate their previous emocore roots through the release of their first studio album in eight years, “Penny Black.” While the band’s age image has changed, and now Chris only seems to make me think of Andrew Garfield, there weren’t any doubts for me that this new record would pick up where the band had first left off, delighting listeners with melodic riffs, and lyrics that tug at the proverbial heart strings. Even when FSF had Jason Gleason and Jon Bunch (Sense Field) taking the vocal reigns for their two previous (near decade-old) releases “Hide Nothing” and 2003′s “How To Start A Fire,” it still felt like a band stuck in a long standing shadow that begun with their break out record “The Moon Is Down.” This is mostly due to a combination of raw emotion in Chris’ lyrics and scrappy musical ingenuity that their debut album seemed to be littered with. Not being a fan of Dashboard Confessional, I had left Carrabba to his own devices, even leaving the Honda Civic Tour in 2003 (after The Get Up Kids, Thrice) before DC was expected to play; still not sure how such a sensitive band could successfully headline a tour.

Penny Black” however, should not be avoided and left before being completely heard like so many crappy headlined tours. Instead Further Seems Forever have managed to recapture the lost emocore sound that many have abandoned or just completely turn to pop. The album opener and video single, “So Cold” is a perfect toe-in-the-pool tester for the album, with Chris alternating between his slow-churning soft voice and finely-tuned light shouts, and the bands gainy melodic riffs. The effort continues through stand out songs like “Way Down” and “Engines,” both of which showcase the band’s proficiency in writing wonderfully melodic and venturing guitar parts, thumbing basslines, and up tempo percussion, that match the powerful lyrical submissions very well. (“Way down, deep inside. Order inspires disorder. Constants divide along a sharp line.” and “I got a cut that won’t close, the secrets are safe we both know. A cut made in my soul, I got a cut that won’t close.”) If you are laughing inside (or outside if you find these lyrics really funny) then FSF probably wouldn’t be a band you could listen to seriously and have their message not sound like a 13 year old who cuts themselves. The effects-ridden phase pedal-fest track “A System of Symmetry”  is a positive one-off departure from the rest of the records emo rock, and lasts just long enough to sound like an experimental set instead of a sell out to the electronica-infused fad. Closing on a beautiful note, “Janie” presents one of the more musically moving songs on the record, to the tune of echoed whispered vocals and lullaby acoustics.

Further Seems Forever had a large journey ahead of them when they came back together with Chris, and while I think the bands talented guitarists and drummer make much of this record stand out, it is Chris’ emotional presence, lyrical poetry, and well sung vocals that elevate “Penny Black” into a future classic. Many emocore bands didn’t make it out of the 2000′s and FSF seemed like it was destined for oblivion, but with inventive musicianship as well as shades of tender and solidified lyrics, Further Seems Forever seems to have come back from the brink and delivered an effort worth remembering.

Score: 4 (out of 5)

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Record Label: Rise Records
Genre: Emo/Indie Rock
RIYL:  Hot Rod Circuit, Beloved, Brandtson

Track Listing:
1. So Cold
2. Rescue Trained
3. Way Down
4. King’s Canyon
5. Staring Down the Sun
6. A System of Symmetry
7. Penny Black
8. On the Outside
9. Engines
10. Rusted Machines
11. Stem the Loss
12. Janie

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