You know those bands that you discover after they have already broken up, only to find out that they are not only fantastic, but also happen to be tremendously influential?
This has happened to me a few times with Far, Refused and Quicksand, to name a few. Failure is another band on that list, and when I found out that they had decided to get the band back together, I was beyond excited.
After a short tour with the mighty Tool (who happen to be very big fans of theirs), and an extensive North American tour in 2014, the Los Angeles band finalized and released its self-produced album The Heart Is a Monster. This album comes nearly 20 years after their seminal 1996 release Fantastic Planet, which at the time was mostly overlooked but has become known as a highly important alternative-rock album.
I had seen Failure in 2014 at The Great American Music Hall on their first reunion tour, and they were nothing short of incredible, so I was very eager to catch them again, particularly at such a great venue. The New Regime, a project led by notable session drummer Ilan Rubin (Nine Inch Nails, Lost Prophets, Paramore) opened up the show. Their set was tight, mostly centered around a garage, psych-rock sound.
After a brief break, the lights went down, and the eager crowd welcomed Ken Andrews (guitar, bass), Greg Edwards (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Kellii Scott (drums) on stage. Opening their set with one of their famous segues (“Segue 4” to be exact), each member had a special dot matrix lighting screen, which lit up with brilliant visuals, and the group busted into their new album’s first hit “Hot Traveler”. Andrews let out a sly smile when he looked up to see the crowd, and I can understand where it came from as everyone was lit up and rockin’ out.
Failure’s set was a solid mix of tracks from the new album, along with tracks from their back catalog. Sonically, they are a band that just cannot be touched. The production level on all of their albums is top-notch, which is a testament to the fact that Andrews has spent a good deal of his time outside of his bands as a producer and engineer. Live, the band uses the Fractal guitar system for its sounds, which runs direct into the PA, a very non-typical way of doing things. But for Failure, it makes total sense since they use a wide variety of tones, distortions and effects. Edwards, who also performs with Autolux, switched between guitar, bass and keys, while Andrews played guitar or bass. Scott’s drumming was on point, and his animated style was a welcome counter to Andrew’s and Edward’s more stoic nature.
As the set drew to a close, the opening key line to their biggest hit “Stuck on You” got the crowd amped up for a righteous singalong, which I gladly partook in. I was happy to see that the audience was a nice mix of people around my own age — some older and some younger, both men and women, all of which had their faces glued to the stage. It was refreshing to not see a sea of cellphones out. Given that these guys had taken such a long stretch of time between performing on a consistent basis, I am blown away at just how natural it seemed for them, like it hadn’t changed a bit. I have friends who had seen the band back in the 90’s and have said that there really isn’t much a difference between them then and now. The world needs more space rock like Failure, so here’s hoping that they press on.