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On Friday, November 22, the Duluth rock band, The Farsights, will be releasing their debut album at the Red Star Lounge. The trio started in 2011 and consists of Phil Jents on vocals and guitar, Brynn Sias on bass and sometimes keys and backing vocals and Ryan Nelson lays down the drums for the group. As far as the band’s name, it should be noted that they all wear glasses. This doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on the music or delivery.
In this album The Farsights can be considered rock but with definite influences of punk and singer-songwriter material. The opening track, “Candy Gun Show,” is an upbeat tune with the kind of groove that could be expected from a band like the Ramones. Quickly strummed, palm muted and distorted guitars is the name of the game on this song. What makes this album even more punk is the acknowledgment of political and social issues although they are sometimes dealt with vaguely.
The next track, “Short Way Down,” seems to be picking at social issues, although the final message is somewhat obscure. “There’s a man in an alley who puts a needle in his arm/only feet from where the kids are playing in the park/it seems that we’ve lost our dignity…rise up rise up fight for what you know/come down come down before you go/I see ourselves in the clouds/it’s a long way up but a short way down.” It begins and ends with a pretty picked out clean riff which holds together the mid-tempo punk chords that make up the primary core of the song.
The third track, “Interstate 35 Blues,” can only be loosely considered blues, it’s more or less a rock song. This somewhat eerie song paints a picture of a cold and dark landscape, “the trees are all crippled and sagging/ice takes hold of the wooden bone/it feels warm but everything is frozen/a gentle breeze moves all of the stones.” At face value, it seems like a song about changing seasons, yet it remains vague about exactly what’s going on in this song. It sounds like there’s an underlying key part using some sort of horn setting that adds to the dramatic feel of this song.
The track, “Cut Down Trees,” begins with layers of guitar feedback and feeds straight in to a fast paced punk song that carries the energy of a Dead Kennedys tune. “The leader of the world cut down these trees/the leader of the world put it it’s on it’s knees/can you count?” Again, there are political and social influenced lyrics, but it doesn’t really fully say a message but rather just hints at it.
One of the more laid back tracks on the album is the song titled, “Nehemia.” It initially pulls back from the rock that drives much of this album and displays a bare and honest approach. The song is more specific as it deals with the societal norm of taking out loans to make it in America. “We are mortgaged our home, our field, our life/we worked/we may eat and keep alive.” The song breaks down in a heavier refrain of simply, “we eat.” The song stands out on the album for it’s effectiveness and energy.
Another powerful track that stands out is, “The Comedy,” which is approaching more of a Modest Mouse feel. Yet again there is a message of the struggle of American life. “My Daddy left work one day, he never went back and that’s ok/and my Mommy lost her job one day she never got back and that’s ok/these days get strange.” The opening verse is very minimalist with just the light strumming on the guitar and very light taps of percussion. The song picks up and the lyrics fall away to metaphors but the point of the song has been made by that point.
The final track, “Billy,” starts off very mellow with a pretty riff on a clean electric guitar and vocal part by Jents. It then shreds away into some heaviness but when it breaks back into softness again, a subtle sustained vocal note makes for a nice transition. As far as the vocals go, this is probably one of the strongest tracks. Once again, there is a mix of personal and also political themes to this song.
Overall, this album is deeper than it lets on. Although the themes aren’t exactly immediately tangible, I feel it’s an appropriate approach for what they were going for. I’d have to say that from the riffs to the lyrics, this album is basically punk but it stays more refined than going all out like one would expect from bands like Nofx or Dead Kennedys who make no mistake about exactly what they are getting at. On the one hand, you have a fun and solid trio rocking away, on the other there’s some fairly sobering material as far as a message about society goes. I’m somewhat torn between liking the minimalist approach or wishing there was more thickness and experimentation with everything that this group has to offer, especially when it comes to the production on the vocals. Either way, it’s a well done effort by The Farsights. Catch The Farsights with The Horror and the Tisdales at the Red Star Lounge on Friday.