Minneapolis's Words On Music label continues its noteworthy re-release schedule with a very timely remastered edition of For Against's second album, December. Again, although i have long been familiar with the band, i do not think that i have ever heard this album all the way through until i got the promo in the mail. And, quite simply, this is one amazing album!
December was originally released in 1988, coincidentally the year i graduated high school, and it seems to sum up all that had come before it in the way of post-punk music, while at the same time hinting towards the future. This album features soaring guitars, masterful drumwork, and some deep driving bass. The guitar in particular is wonderful here, with guitarist Harry Dingman able to sound at times like The Church (he can, somehow, sound like both Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper at the same time), Kitchens of Distinction, The Chameleons, and The Ocean Blue, all at once. Basically, this album is a showcase as to what a wonderful guitarist he was. (Or maybe is – i dunno if Dingman is doing anything these days. Surely, this album was the high point of his career.)
There is not a single weak track here, so let's go over each of them in exhausting detail.
The album starts off with Sabres, a great new wave pop tune with that classic 80s intro: thudding drums and soaring guitar backed by a driving bass riff. The tune moves along at a breakneck pace, brooding and poppy all at once. Up next is Stranded in Greenland, a tune which reminds me of The Ocean Blue (who were really contemporaries of For Against) with its "pop done in minor chords" sound. The bass soars here, and vocalist Jeffrey Runnings puts in a wonderful performance, really using his voice to great effect.
Svengali breaks things up a bit, being altogether more jangly than the two tunes that had proceeded it. And here i mean jangly in a way reminiscent more of Séance by The Church, as opposed to the REM style jangle that surfaced at times on Echelons. It is a mellow song, with nice clattering percussion, and it moves along at a happy, if unhurried, pace. The next tune, They Said, is more Buck than Koppes/Wilson-Piper, as Dingman returns to an REM style jangle. This is a lovely song, almost lighter than air, and it appears to float along quite happily.
The Effect starts out with the nice clacking sound of drum stick on drum rim before building to a slow burn frenzy under a mess of rhythm. Drummer Greg Hill really shines on this track, as he does on the title track, which comes next. December builds really nicely with strong vocals, cascading guitars, and a frenzy of drums and cymbals. All three band members really give it their all here.
The next tune, The Last Laugh, is a really different sort of tune for For Against. It is less new wave, and more 60s pop. Less Chameleons, more Monkees. I think it has something to do with the different recording/effects on the vocals. However, the bass part here is throbbingly brilliant, perhaps Runnings best bass riff ever. Combine this with Dingman's guitar in a chiming wall of sound, and you have one great tune.
Paperwhites is next, and the most noteworthy part of this song is the bridge, wherein all three band members go all out. Finally, the album ends with Clandestine High Holy, a frenetic and tense song. It builds to a real frenzy of guitar, bass, and drums, and is a good end to the album.
This is another brilliant album from For Against. Hearing this, i really wish that i had been more aware of them in the 80s. Obviously, there were some interesting things going on.
The production work on this remastering is entirely appropriate as well. The production is slightly flat, and still somewhat murky. By murky, here i mean that the instrumentation tends to blur together in a manner that seems natural, like it was meant to do that, and not that the instruments cannot be heard. It works really well with the music.
I continue to be impressed by For Against, and look forward to the next remaster appearing in my mailbox. If you are a fan of post-punk, you need to check this album out.