Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Album Review: Happy If You Aren't by Fastfade

Before last year's release of Roach, Aerial Salad were the north's best punk rock secret. Then Roach came out and the three piece became one of the most popular new bands throughout the entire country. Down south we have our own best kept punk rock secret who, like Aerial Salad, are just about to release an album that all the punks will soon be talking about. That band is London/Brighton super fast skate punks Fastfade. This three piece, Ryan on guitar and vocals, Joe on bass and Jake on drums, have been steadily gaining themselves a reputation of being one of the south's best young bands with their chaotic live performances and Captain Everything inspired songs. On December the 14th, Fastfade release their debut full length Happy If You Aren't through Umlaut Records and I'm expecting it to catapult them to big things.

Happy If You Aren't begins with the song Walkie Talkie which had a video released for it last month. This song so perfectly encapsulates what Fastfade are all about. Fast guitars, fast drums, fast vocals, fast harmonies but so much melody. These guys channel an era of punk rock I'm not sure they were even alive for and do it oh so well. Time Stuck is about exactly what you'd probably expect given its title, feeling as if time is standing still and that you're going around in circles. The song does lack a bit of the melody that featured so heavily in Walkie Talkie but certainly it has lots more intensity. Musically it's so stabby, every note is short and to the point which creates an interesting sound. Ryan's skill on guitar really shines at the start of track number three, Idiot. This is one of those crazy fast songs that just blow you away – I get breathless just listening to it. I do wonder if when these guys reach their thirties will they still be able to play songs at this pace. The energy that omits from the gang vocals and harmonies is so wonderfully infectious and I find myself smiling like an idiot the entire way through the song. From Idiot we move onto Weirdo. Weirdo is much more of a sing-along punk number. Joe's superb bass playing is featured heavily during the verse, in essence taking the lead on the track. When we reach the chorus it's time for us all to join the band in a sing-along. It seems as if Fastfade have taken a leaf from their Umlaut buddies The Burnt Tapes and Triple Sundae with this more mid-tempo approach to their style.

The fifth track on the album is title Will. This bouncy skate punk song surprisingly features some ska upstrokes – is this Joe's attempt to get some attention from his "dad", Paul from Be Sharp Promotions? As you might expect from a Fastfade song, it's a lot of fun and will get you dancing away pretty quickly. A big feature of the Fastfade sound is the use of gang vocals to finish off sentences. This really does a magnificent job of making sure every line hits home. Negative is an older Fastfade song that first featured on the band's first EP Simple Ideals. Re-recorded and remastered for Happy If You Aren't, it has a much fuller sound and going back and listening to the original you can really see how far Jake and Ryan have come along as musicians (Joe wasn't in Fastfade for the original release). I do love hearing a band's progression. Sub Motive is a track that is only just over a minute in length but Fastfade go all out to fit everything that they can into it. It feels like a perfect song to create a circle pit to (if you're into that kind of thing). It doesn't really slow down and it's not so long that you're likely to run out of breath midway through the track.

Seatbelt is a kind of a forty five second building introduction to the following song, Blunt, which also features on Simple Ideals. I believe that Blunt is the first song that Fastfade ever wrote and is a fan favourite when they play live. This is a wonderful piece of early 90s-style pop punk where you can easily hear Fastfade's blink-182 and Green Day influences. There's also a riff midway through the song that really reminds me of No Use For A Name that caught my ear. The final lines of "It's something, it's nothing, I'm telling you we'll be just fine, believe me, I've been there, we'll find another way in time" ensure that the song finishes on positive note. Frontside is a song of two styles, at times sharp and punchy but effortlessly switching to some of the most melodic parts of the entire album. This works well with the theme of the song being mental health and how sometimes things are lovely and sometimes they really aren't. As soon as I heard the opening riffs on the eleventh song, Passtime, I instantly thought of NOFX. Then Ryan's vocals hit, seemingly doing his best Billie Joe Armstrong impression before some big Bad Religion-esque oozinn-ahhs add another layer to the sound. This is going to be one of those songs that I'll listen to a hundred times and continue to find new things I enjoy about it.

Head First is the longest track on Happy If You Want. It's four minutes long which in Fastfade terms is a marathon length song. I listened to this song on repeat for about twenty minutes trying to figure out who it reminds me of and it finally clicked. Chicago pop punk heroes Allister (who happen to be one of my all time favourites), but really old school era Allister – Dead Ends And Girlfriends era Allister. The whole tone of the song has a bit of an older school feeling to it which I really enjoyed. It really took me back to the late 90s/early 2000s when I was just finding pop punk music. The penultimate song on the album is Sink Or Swim which is a cover of the band No Thanx To Paul. I have no idea who No Thanx To Paul are so obviously have no knowledge of the song but I enjoyed what seems like a heavier style from Fastfade. It's pretty relentless throughout with Jake's immense drumming really shining through. Finally we finish with what was my favourite song from the last Fastfade EP, Slingshot. For me, this if Fastfade at their best – fast, bouncy and wonderfully catchy. There's plenty that stands out on the track – the excellent guitar riffs, the hard hitting chorus, the delightful bass solo and that exceptional chorus that'll be ringing in your ears for days.

This is such a good debut full length from Fastfade. As I said at the beginning of this review, these young men are the London punk scene's best kept secret. This won't be the case now. I'd expect to see them popping up all over the country playing shows based on the strength of Happy If You Aren't. I predict that 2019 is going to be some year for Ryan, Jake and Joe.

Pre-order Happy If You Aren't here: www.umlautrecords.co.uk

Like Fastfade here: https://www.facebook.com/fastfade/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

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