FANGCLUB are a Dublin based three piece grunge/rock outfit who have been making waves lately through a co-sign of Daniel P. Carter on the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show and having toured with the likes of Twin Atlantic. Vocalist and guitarist Steven King, bassist Kevin Keane and drummer Dara Coleman have proven themselves to be quite the hard working group as they have released two EPs “Bullet Head” and “Coma Happy” in 2016 to wide critical acclaim and a dedicated legion of fans. With the support of Kerrang! Rock Sound and a rise in fans tattooing their fang logo on their bodies, there comes great curiosity of the immense hype surrounding this band. On first listen, it is clear that this three piece is a no nonsense rock outfit with a knack for writing simple and effective choruses that are aimed for the masses; so let’s see how the band fair over their first full length record.
Opening track ‘Bullet Head’ exemplifies the bands absolute strengths from the get go; it is a charging rock anthem with fuzzy thick guitar riffs and a catchy repetitive chanting chorus. Simplicity is the recurring theme throughout this record as it appears to be the bands biggest blessing. Similarly ‘Role Models’ releases a soaring open chord riff before breaking down into a four to the floor chugged verse. Admirably the band wear their influences on their sleeves here with double tracked low and high octave vocals during the chorus that harkens back to the emo era of Brand New at their best, and the nuances of blending a vocal refrain with a drawn out guitar note in the vein of Nirvana. Both thematically and aesthetically the band market the cliché’s of grunge to their very core. The themes are of a dreary and brutally honest autobiographical nature of dealing with insomnia and emptiness. Despite the bleak sensibilities of these topics, Stephen’s questioning of empty idol worship – “role models, how did you get so hollow?” and the isolated over thinking nature of ‘Bad Words’ – “I’ve been sleeping every day, wasting all my time away” comes across brilliantly authentic and endearing.
These songs are easily digestible, follow repetition throughout its lyrical passages and each have head banging riffs accessible to both hard-core fans of grunge, to the more casual listener. With the recent upsurge of the grunge revival in the UK (Milk Teeth, Allusondrugs and Big Spring to name a few) it appears a brilliant time for Fangclub to thrive however; the simplicity of their music is also their biggest curse as it quickly becomes apparent throughout this short record that the band have very little else to offer to stand out above their peers; and the excitement is quickly diminished as each song mostly follows the repeating formula and the same pace. Whilst it is fantastic to have more guitar driven records gaining momentum within the mainstream; it appears the balance throughout the production here is a little off as the drums and vocals often fall behind the guitars and bass within the mix – this results in moments that are uneven and are in need of extra polish. Furthermore whilst the melodies are catchy, Steven has a breathy nature to his vocal delivery that makes it troublesome for his efforts outside of the choruses to stand out and become memorable. ‘Loner’ is an example of this issue: arriving at the back end of the record; it exemplifies the band becoming complacent and inoffensive and the end result is a track that simply plods along.
This record is not all doom and gloom however; ‘Lightning’ injects a sense of adolescent fun and a strong guitar lead throughout. Furthermore it showcases them breaking the mold and showing potential as they infuse a variating vocal melody and chord progression with the final chorus of the song. ‘Common Ground’ shows the band step up a gear into a major key vocal melody and sense of positivity, reminiscent of the Foo Fighters during their early ‘The Colour And The Shape’ era, whilst ‘Better To Forget’ illustrates pure grit through Kevin’s bass tone and a brilliant guitar harmony break riff straight out of the early 00’S.
Fangclub must be commended here for a showcase of good song writing and a raucously loud effort as a three piece band, and in many ways as a first release it is a triumph however; it is at its best when it veers away from its tired take on the grunge sound and leans on the more aggressive tendencies. It brings forth a big display of confidence and potential, and with a solid fan base and media backing, the future can only be positive for this trio.
Fangclub display potential with first full length release