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Recording:
  Echelons  
 
Artist:
  For Against  
 
Label:
  Words on Music (originally released on Independent Project Records)  
 
Release Date:
  10.August.2004 (originally released in 1987)  
 
Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan  
         
 
Rating:
 

 
         
 
Review:
 

Sometimes i wonder if success is random. That is to say, every so often you will encounter a band who is brilliant, who does new things in a remarkable way, and yet, for some reason, they fail to catch on, while their musical followers reap huge rewards and success. History is full of these bands, for example: Slint (the prototype for all math rock and noisy post-rock acts), Gang of Four (progenitors of a thousand post-punk acts, yet very people in this country know of them as they listen to their Franz Ferdinand), and, of course, For Against.

I have been listening to this band for years, and have many singles from the late 80's and early 90's, all of which fuse proto-goth post punk with twangy rhythms in a seemingly fresh way. I don't specifically recall ever owning this album before, but on first listen, some of the songs sound familiar in the sense that i remember things like this playing in the background during my high school years. I have probably heard this album before it was re-mastered and re-released.

For Against are a mid-80s post-punk act from, of all places, Nebraska. In 1987, when Echelons came out, no one was making music like this. Of course nowadays lots of folk are (on this website, see reviews of eNTERTAINME.nt, The Orphins, Interpol, My Favorite, Snowden, Asobi Seksu, etc.), and it is high time that For Against got their reevaluation. This album is very "now" in the sense that music which sounds like it was made in a dark cave in the early 80's is very trendy. Given that fact, Echelons still sounds fresh today, while in 1987 it sounded like a missive from another time.

I have heard For Against described as a band that fuses Robert Smith's vocal style with Peter Buck's guitarwork and Peter Hook's basswork, and i think that description holds up. The bass carries a melody, while the guitar soars in arpeggios played through tons of echo and reverb. The voice is a flat thing, almost droning and in the background of the songs, all of which have catchy rhythms. It's good stuff, really. There are many good songs on this album, but i'll just go over my favorites here.

The album starts with a three song sweep of powerful, bass heavy, post-punk tunes. First is Shine, which flows into Daylight, and then there is a real sonic climax in Get On With It, which has a killer bass riff and nice clattering, early Lol Tolhurst percussion. The guitar here positively chimes, and the song moves along wonderfully. These three songs constitute an auspicious start to an album if i have ever heard one.

And then, after the wonderful 80's moody dance music ends, For Against hit us with a truly epic song. Wisely enough, it is the title track to this album, and i think it stands as a high-point in the post-punk genre. It starts slowly, with a grating guitar riff, tapped drums, and chugging bass, and then it builds to a frenzy of drumming and weird keyboard drones. Itís an eerie song, almost uneasy, but very nicely done.

Other tunes might be good in one way or another, but none of them fully typify the For Against sound as well as Echelons does. For example, i think that vocalist Jeffrey Runnings puts in his best performance on Forget Who You Are, while guitarist/keyboardist Harry Dingman does something wonderful with the phase-shifted guitar on Autocrat. He's also great with the keyboards on Loud and Clear, a song upon which i would wager money that i danced to in someone's suburban basement at least once during my senior year in high school, when it was played between Lovecats and Don't Change.

All of that said, it is somewhat amazing that modern bands who do similar music never mention For Against as an influence. These guys did the post-punk thing remarkably well, and yet they fell through the cracks of musical history. At least, they did so the first time. Apparently Words on Music records is going to release re-mastered versions of their five albums. This is the first, with the second due in mid 2005. Don't let For Against slip by you this time around.

 
         
 
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