Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Album Review: Increasing The Minimum Rage by Faintest Idea

Last year when Random Hand announced their indefinite hiatus there were questions about who would take their place as the UK's premier ska punk band. For me there was no need for questioning, it was always going to be Kings Lynn's Faintest Idea. After seeing them live twice last year supporting on Random Hands farewell (for now) tour it's clear they are more than capable of putting on a show that will get a live crowd moving. The question is, what about on record? This April Faintest Idea have a new album (their fourth) out on TNS Records that is called Increasing The Minimum Rage. With a much changed line-up I was very interested to hear what it sounds like.

The album begins with a song by the name of Circling The Drain. After starting with some gentle horns and a short audio clip about not liking any governments, the track starts properly with some bouncing horn lines before front man Dani Cliché’s harsh and aggressive vocal style comes in. The delivery is bouncy put also packs one hell of a punch. Faintest Idea also add some things I've never really heard in their music before. Firstly, there is some fantastic keyboard playing (from Vic Ruggiero of The Slackers!) that adds a great new layer to the song. And secondly, the use of a female harmony, which I suspect is by new trumpet player Sara Harrington. The tempo is upped on the second track Cocktails. Beginning with some great guitars from new lead guitarist Jack Player before Dani comes in with quick-fire vocals that will get a crowd skanking in no time. There is some fantastic use of gang vocals on the chorus of the track, something that Faintest Idea have always excelled at. I've said many times how good gang vocals are for giving a song a sense of inclusiveness, this works especially well with Faintest Ideas political rude boy street punk style. Down Pressure is one of the many stand out tracks on Increasing The Minimum Rage. When I first heard it I was instantly reminded of The Specials, which is a little weird given the difference in Dani and Specials’ singer Terry Hall’s vocals. The similarities come in the music, where Faintest Idea's horn section really comes to life, and the backing harmonies, which really make me thing of Little Bitch. 

The fourth song is called Echo Chamber and is a track that really shows how far the band have come as musicians and songwriters. The song has some fantastic guitar solos, bass lines and drum beats along with horns that take you on a marvellous journey. Increasing The Minimum Rage certainly feels like there is a lot more use of the incredible brass section that Faintest Idea possess than on previous albums. The Well Has Run Dry feels a lot more like classic Faintest Idea. It's a fast paced hardcore punk song complete with horns. The band don't slow down during the songs two minutes and three second duration. I really enjoyed how Dani and Jack took turns in delivering lines; it gives the song an even bigger sound. This song will get a live crowd very rowdy. Lords Of War is another more aggressive punk jam. The horns take the lead at the beginning of the track, playing a tune that sounds like it's rallying the troops for battle. Jack again plays some great, intricate guitar lines that give the song a really interesting sound. Vocals come from everywhere in the song, making you wonder what's going to come next - something I really enjoy. Faintest Idea really switch things up on the seventh track Throw Away The Key. It's a punk rock reggae song! When I first heard it I immediately thought of the Mad Caddies – which is always a good thing! I really enjoyed Faintest Idea switching their sound up on this song. More to the point I really enjoyed that they pulled it off, a testament to the talent of the band. Of course Dani's vocals are as harsh as ever on the song but that really adds to the charm of the song. This is another song that feels like it will be really fun live. 

No Consequences has a sound similar to UK punk legends The Filaments. I love to hear bands’ influences coming out in their music. This is a track about spending life on the road, the band frequently shout "Chasing White Lines" throughout the song - a metaphor about spending a lot of time on motorways. Unlike many of the other songs on the album, here the band use the horns mostly to add a hook to the chorus rather than leading the melody of the song. Ouroboros again sees Faintest Idea stepping away from their trademark sound by incorporating a calypso style guitar at the beginning of the track. Jack Player really has added a lot of new dimensions to the band since joining. The horn section does a great job in walking you through the song, again making you feel like you are part of a rally as Dani sings about class wars. The penultimate song is called Corporation. This track has a long musical intro before Dani's vocals start. This time they are slow, like a preacher trying to get his message across. The song eventually picks up some speed morphing into a fast-paced skank fest that will get people really moving. The complete shift in styles in the song is fantastic; the first half is one big build before the crazy dance fest that follows. The final song is named Tightrope and is a slower-paced song that really lets Dani's vocals do most of the work through the first half of the track. Despite the slower pace of the song Faintest Idea still manage to get all of the political aggression across through the song. Tightrope finishes with a long musical outro that finishes off the song and the album excellently.

I love all three of Faintest Ideas previous albums but Increasing The Minimum Rage really sees the band go up many levels. There is a great variety in song styles and, despite the number of line-up changes, they sound really tight on the recording. Perhaps down to the relentless touring that the band does. For me Faintest Idea are one of the best live bands around and any of these tracks will make a wonderful addition on their live set.

Pre-order here: http://www.tnsrecords.co.uk/?product_cat=tns-releases

Like Faintest Idea here: https://www.facebook.com/Faintestidea

Information on the album launch show here: https://www.facebook.com/events/564189317081879/