Album Review: The Fake Boys – I Love My Life When You’re Around

I Love My Life When You’re Around is the latest album by The Fake Boys. One thing that the album did was perpetually surprise me, every time you think you know what is happening there is a change. There seems to have been a deliberate attempt to infuse more psychedelic approaches and effects into the traditional punk elements in the music. The vocal style also changes often. When I listened to the album my eye-brows were raised at some point during just about every song; something interesting, out there or ambitious lurks around every corner. Whether the band capitalises on these intriguing moments is a matter of opinion.

Read my opinion below

The album opens with the track Newz, you think you know what you’re getting  throughout the song, but this is constantly being subverted. There is a lyric in the song that reads “Miss the way that you smell in the morning”, prior to this line, the lyrics seemed to me to have been delivered in the style of Metallica’s own James Alan Hetfield. When the aforementioned lyric arrives it arrives with potent emotionality and the music which had remained fast and swelling up until this point slows and hangs off of the line, then there is a heavy chord, providing for the listener the prospect of being in for a more nuanced and surprising listening experience than they had been led to believe, but then James Hetfield comes back and their expectations are subverted yet another time. It is hard to follow what you are listening to, one minute we have shoegazey emo, the next it’s Chad Kroeger’s country cousin bringing it home for the troops, the next it is mild-mannered and melodic. This schizophrenia of style makes it difficult to get a good flow going or passively enjoy the record – I expect it would be hard to move along to at a live concert.

I found the music throughout the album very leading and in some ways intoxicating. One of the great contrasts is between the speed and consistency of the drums with the ebb and flow of long form, psychedelic guitar work. The problem for me was not that the style changes around a lot or that the band tries new and innovative ideas and approaches, it is that for me this is not carried out well enough for the ambitiousness of the idea. The singer in particular does not so much flow between different styles – leaning into them and taking what works from each distinct perspective – but instead steps in and out of each method wholeheartedly. One minute it is this, the next minute it is that, then, it’s back to what it was a minute ago. I found it jarring at times. The vocal work shows mastery of no trade in particular, despite some endearing moments.

For me, the beauty of this album is that there is a huge amount of potential and a vast and eclectic range of sounds, the problem is that this potential is often squandered and there is no one distinct and characteristic sound. Too many sounds, not enough sound. The band clearly has a good understanding of the different styles they are mirroring but jumps between them instead of blurring the boundaries between them. Were they to embrace what they are good at and find comfort in their style, they would truly be an innovative band with an eclectic and intriguing sound. Instead they conjure the rather unfortunate image of a Metallica and My Bloody Valentine super-group.

I found this to be an interesting record with a lot going on and a lot of potential but which didn’t hold together and didn’t invite me back for multiple listens. The overall impression was of a record that was not relaxed but instead somewhat contrived. The band strikes me as one which doesn’t wish to lose its street cred, or have their Punk Card’s revoked, whilst trying at the same time to innovate and break the mould. They are a talented band but they’re trying to hard to innovate whilst staying true to their roots. They are trying to have their punk cake and eat with psychedelic emotionality too without fully committing to either approach.
You may have noticed that I only made reference to the first song of the album. I could have went on to comment and critique more individual tracks but decided not to, in part because it doesn’t offer much else up and in other part because the first track would have been as far as I got with the album was I not reviewing it. A lot of the lyrics are quite stand-offish and aggressive with themes of selfhood, individuality and a failure to care what anyone else thinks. This does not come across in the album, but instead, perhaps, the opposite. I think that if the band truly didn’t care what anyone thought then they might produce a better album, instead of one which ticks many boxes and yet very few.

If, for whatever reason, you are interested in checking out the album, you can acquire it here.

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