By Christopher David
The measure of a great band can, at least in part, be noted in the scope of their influence after they’re gone. Some obvious examples come to mind The Beatles, Pink Floyd (at least in the classic sense), The Doors and the 1990s alternative rock boom saw its share of visionary artists along those same lines who, sadly, were buried in the rubble of ineffective or nonexistent promotion, record label politics, drug problems, and who knows what else.
The members of Failure can speak to all of those things. One of the more intellectually stimulating rock bands to come out the 1990s alt scene, the lush, spacey soundscapes that Greg Edwards and Ken Andrews (and later in the lineup, Kellii Scott) created over the course of three records were never really given their proper due at the time, and nowhere is this felt more now than in the culmination of that run: 1997’s Fantastic Planet, an album now heralded by many far and wide as one of the best and most influential albums of that decade. As Failure disintegrated like so much space dust following the tour for that record and the members went onto to other stellar projects, the faithful patiently hoped for a reunion.
2014’s reunion of that lineup for the Tree of Stars tour (which really ended up being like a Fantastic Planet tour, version 2.0) brought the band back to the collective alternativerock conscious (as if they’d ever really left) and gave the trio an opportunity to pick up where they left off, which they did, releasing a much anticipated fourth album, The Heart is a Monster, in June.
The tour for that record has been something of a revelation for longtime fans, and a brilliant introduction to one of the alltime great bands for those who had some catching up to do. Failure’s return has definitively proven that the band exists outside of a specific genre or scene, and the crowd at Metro last Friday proved that the band’s time may have finally come.
Opening with a one two punch from Monster, openers “Hot Traveler” and “A.M. Amnesia” worked seamlessly against classics like “Another Space Song,” “Frogs,” “Smoking Umbrellas” the list goes on. That Monster is a worthy successor to Fantastic Planet is a given from first listen, but seeing the new material mixed with old was a testament to the very specific chemistry shared by Andrews, Edwards, and Scott. Selections from Fantastic Planet anchored the set, and while some of the crunchier tunes from the new record were missed (“The Focus” and “Snow Angel” would have been welcome additions), the ebb and flow of the set was hard to argue with as video panels behind each member gave the illusion of floating through space on epic single “Stuck On You” and Planet favorite “Heliotropic.” (And let’s be honest Failure fans are a fairly rabid bunch, and we would have been happy to see every damn record played front to back.)
It took 17 years, but seeing Failure’s return to the stage not just on the wave of a reunion but in support of a new album is something that most fans never thought they’d see, and for 90 minutes at the Metro, it felt like they’d never left. That’s not easy to pull off, and it’s even harder to keep nostalgia from doing the talking. Failure are clearly looking forward, and if The Heart is a Monster and the current tour are any indication, that’s probably a good idea: their best work may well be in front of them.
For more on the band, tour and music, click here.
For photos from the show, click here.
Failure, Metro, Chicago, IL August 21, 2015 (setlist)