Fang Island's set consisted mainly of tracks from the recently released "Major" with some old favorites thrown in. First, about "Major": It relies too much on prior tropes and tired pop sensibilities, rendering the sound less impressive than 2010's self-titled debut. Fang Island achieved better results on its previous album with the same constituent parts: rattling drums, insane guitar riffs and catchy almost stadium chanting. Though bright, catchy and optimistic, "Major" feels slightly under thought.
But lack of invention on the record does not mean live failure. No, Fang Island's live show is one that impresses, and its St. Louis set at Off Broadway was no different.
Openers Florestan, from St. Louis, played sunny, West-Coast math rock that featured a tip of the hat to Minus the Bear with subdued bass elements complete with delayed guitars and syncopated drums. When the vocals arrived, they were dreamy, silken and a little under driven. I enjoyed the epic nature of "One Summer" and the Sunny Day Real Estate conjuring of "A Little More Time." I'm excited to see where Florestan goes with their introverted, chemical-haze sound.
Also residing on the Sargent House label, Zechs Marquise inhabits the same world as Fang Island. The band's sound consists of colorful, instrumental jam-outs and guitar-fueled head-rushes similar to Ratatat. "Getting Paid" was an grand number with a creepy organ effect applied to Marcel Rodriguez's synthesizer. Marcos Smith's studied guitar play suggested a stealthy action hero taking down crooks.
"Static Lovers" opened with a noise bed of guitar and synthesizer reminiscent of the score from a Kubrick movie and then deployed a manic jam with fuzzed guitar and starry organ elements. The band's sense of humor showed through on "Mega Slap," with fat, distorted bass moves and ironic synthesizer strings dabbled over top. The song evaporated into a jangly, wah-wah space ride with twinkly guitar stutter.
Fang Island opened with "Careful Crossers" from their 2010 self-titled debut. The song was a playful trip with a ringing guitar build and etherial synthesizer. The effect pulled in the scant audience. "Life Coach" suffered from a technical audio flub which flustered the small crowd and the band, but Fang Island stayed on track. "Seek It Out" featured heavy guitar punches and the positive, get-up-and-go lyric, "I want to seek out the angle. I better start now." "Sisterly" was cloudless with tight drumming from Marc St. Sauveur and more wah-wah from Jason Bartell. 2012's "Major" features more singing than Fang Island's debut, and their live show benefits from added lyrical moments, but with more lyrics come a few bars of cringe-worthy, overcooked pop.
"Asunder" started out with some jolly dub and fantastical synthesizer, but dissolved into a snare drum lead that spun on too long. And yet, the last 15 seconds of the song amazed with handclaps, dynamic drum movement and exciting guitar work. On "Dooney Rock," it was as if Fang Island mixed the Walkmen, Texas-rodeo folk and traditional Irish music in a blender and poured the concoction into our ears.
Old favorite "Daisy" brought the power of a million high-fives. Other highlights included "Illinois," with traditional rock tropes and "Make Me," which had an off-kilter Beach Boys feel before it crashed into a glorious "woah, woah" chorus. In the end, the infectious energy of Fang Island felt essential on a steamy St. Louis Sunday night.
Fang Island set list:
Seek It Out