Fang Island, 'Major'
By Jonathan Nelson
July 31, 2012
Jonathan Nelson writes on theology and music. He currently resides in Durham, NC, and is pursuing graduate work at Duke Divinity School.
We all long for simplicity. Not all the time, of course, and not in the same ways. Nonetheless, we all experience a longing for simplicity when our circumstances are a bit too weighty. We reminisce about simpler times. We wish for innocence. We want to recover a certain degree of naiveté. When what has always been black or white is suddenly grey, we want lucidity. When the demarcations of good and evil are obscured, we desire clarity. When all is calamity, noise, and clutter, we are desperate for cleanness. We all long for simplicity. Fang Island’s sophomore LP, Major, chases this longing and achieves simplicity.
In a recent interview guitarist and vocalist Jason Bartell states, “There's some sort of shared longing for innocence among people in our age group, and we inadvertently and intentionally speak to that.” Major is saturated in precisely this sentiment. On the bright opener “Kindergarten,” the band repeats a slightly adjusted common saying: “All I know I learned in Kindergarten.” Later, “Never Understand” glorifies ignorant bliss with the line “I hope I never understand.” Major beckons the listener back to blissful ignorance, to innocence lost—to simplicity.Major beckons for simplicity both lyrically and musically. The excitement for Major rode off the steam of the thrill ride of Fang Island’s debut. Their self-titled Sargent House debut brims with energy. It is one part math-rock, one part post-punk, one part classic rock, and one big celebration. Major lacks much of the technicality and ostentation that filled their debut. On Major, their energies are more channeled. There still is the hand-clapping (“Dooney Rock”), the spastic guitar-tapping (“Chompers”), and the driving riffs (“Asunder”) that made the debut so fun. There is still a great deal of celebration. But this time, Fang Island celebrates in oft-repeated riffs and hooks. Major is less technical and more straightforward. Fang Island celebrates the simple life with more simplicity.
This simplicity is born out of an awareness of what Fang Island does best: creating catchy and uplifting rock music. It is music in the vein of Andrew W.K., Dope Body, and Japandroids. It is music that intends to be fun. Therefore, it is music that is instantly gratifying. On nearly every song, Fang Island quickly gets to the sonically pleasing riff or hook and sustains it throughout. The best tracks on Major, “Sisterly” and “Seek it Out,” are cases in point. They give the listener what they want, just as the lyrics on “Sisterly” suggest: “And I wanna hear the song right now, and I wanna feel it all right now.” With catchy riffs, infectious melodies, and warm reverb, Major capitalizes on instant gratification and satisfies.