Funeral for a Friend have changed a lot since their humble beginnings in Bridgend, South Wales. High pitched banshee wailing from Seven Ways to Scream Your Name was quickly replaced by actual singing for Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation; more solid song-writing came through for Hours; mainstream melodies infiltrated Tales Don’t Tell Themselves; a crash back to reality shattered any recollection of Memory and Humanity. Though, lest we forget, the band has almost entirely changed. Drummer Pat Lundy is the latest to exit rock music’s Sugababes.
Luckily for fans, there’s a reliable trend. If an album doesn’t quite reach expectations, all you need do is wait another 24 months and they’ll be back with an alteration that hopes to be more to your tastes. So, for those disappointed by 2013’s Conduit, this is here as consolation. Though, try to keep your hopes low. Contrary to the established order, this is along the same lines as its predecessor.
While its name alone does act as a commentary for the fan-base that have given new meaning to ‘loyalty’, Stand By Me for the Millionth Time is a risky one to open with. It’s highly unlikely the microphone broke and they couldn’t be bothered re-recording, but what we get is essentially someone shouting down a tunnel and intermittently walking closer so their words are clearer. Rather than a gentle (or as close as they get) introduction, it seems confused by mono and stereo settings.
On the subject of clarity, there are two that threw that idea right out of the window. Pencil Pusher and Modern Excuse of a Man are clearly angry; guitars, bass and drums are played with what can only be genuine rage. However, decipherable lyrics are sacrificed in favour of “ffghahaghhafafghh”. It’s fortunate that (1) there are strong tracks to counteract these and (2) they’re not solely reliant on poetry and relevance anyway.
Not that they’ve gone massively up in the world, but Hilary Clinton makes a guest appearance on this album. Okay, it’s a clip from a speech regarding equal rights for women and she’s almost definitely unaware of this addition to her CV, but it’s still some high profile stuff. As is obvious, the accompanying song is in the same vein. “Born with a dick doesn’t mean I’m a misogynist” would happily resonate amongst the Tumblr community but, as it would be verging on a miracle if they heard even 10 seconds of the album, it’s unlikely You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself will become an anthem for the cause.
Need something to slow it all down and provide a break from rage? Good news! There’s less than 2 minutes of an acoustic respite with Brother. That’s all. One minute and fifty-three seconds. Make the most of that. The song itself is shorter than a few of the titles. By the time you’ve said “You’ve Got a Bad Case of the Religions is my favourite but After All These Years… Like a Lightbulb Going Off in My Head is weak”, your conversational partner will have finished revelling in the acoustic/ raw passion infusion before you’re halfway through the sentence. Perhaps because it is so juxtaposed, it truly stands out as one of the best efforts in this compilation.
Rhythm and melody was discarded from their music pre-Conduit. It’s more of a ‘shout and hope for the best’ scenario. Yes, the music can seem choppy, as if they recorded a rehearsal rather than the finished product, but it’s necessary to keep more or less in time with the adopted vocal style. If Matt Davies-Kreye were fully utilising his actually very good singing voice, then the whole thing would be a complete mess.
Despite flaws, the album is enjoyable, just heavily dependent on setting. Here are 11 tracks ready for a sweaty, small gig. They are not perfected for your iPod. Yes, the mood will strike you and there’ll be a need for some politics and general anger, but not usually while out for a walk with the dog. It’s a shame Donny wasn’t about Doncaster but that’s a target for, presumably, 2017. ‘1%‘, clear winner of best track, has been floating about on the internet for a month if you can’t wait to tease your eardrums.
Chapter and Verse will be released January 19th, with a headline UK tour starting on the 15th.