A post-grunge exploration
In the world of music, few genres have garnered critical disdain, more than post-grunge and hard rock. These genres are often unfairly derided thanks to a few unsavory peers who take the warmed-over scraps of great groups like Nirvana and repurpose them into their unappetizing dish. However, just because the largest acts are often serving reheated leftovers doesn’t mean that the whole genre operates along with the convention.
While many bands in the world of post-grunge put together compelling records that feature minimal, if any retreading, even the best manage to incorporate genre tropes, and Failure is no exception with their latest album, Wild Type Droid. Take “Headstand” for instance; this track manages to feel impressively like a softer version of hard rock legends Chevelle, but at the same time, the slowed pace and chiller vibe ultimately make the song more compelling. The same is true of “Bring Back the Sound,” which exists somewhere between the phases of Sublime and popular early aughts rock groups. At first glance, this sounds unappealing to be sure, but in practice, the result is far more engaging and soothing than one might imagine. What is interesting to note throughout the album is the lack of harsh vocals. Normally, this would lead to a neutered album, but Failure manages to make their lack of violence sound not only intentional but occasionally superior to the more straightforward approach.
Even on the opening track, “Water with Hands,” people get a powerful sense of how the album intends to operate. Themes of mental subjugation as the norm (“mind control is old news)” and musical elements like a clean, yet abrasive guitar tone, establish themselves as keystones that guide the listener through the record. Though intensity is not the only hallmark of the record. Occasionally, slower songs like the Radiohead adjacent “A Lifetime of Joy” clamber their way into one’s headphones. While not a standout on the record by any means, it does serve its purpose admirably, slowing the record down and pulling listeners out of the aggressive headspace the rest of the record inspires. Ultimately, it serves as a great resetting point before diving into the record’s best track, “Submarines.”
Wild Type Droid brings plenty of thrilling guitar explorations and atmospheric vocal performances, but no song brings the heat as hard as “Submarines.” Whatever guitar tone you like, you can rest assured that Failure brings an even better one to “Submarines.” It clatters and twangs as if a country acoustic were run through whatever filters that Chevelle uses on their records. Over the top of this rapturous tone, comes a classic post-grunge style of vocals that keeps the rest of the track aloft rather than down in the mud where the guitar tone would imply it to be living. At the same time, there are clear nods to groups like TOOL, Nirvana and Bush throughout the composition of the track. These nods only enhance the track, never overplaying their hand or overstaying their welcome, just adding a hint of a spice that we know and love.
Some genres are harder to operate within than most, and post-grunge certainly fits into that category. The fact that Failure was able to create an album this compelling, this far past the expiration date on this genre, is utterly mind-boggling. While it’s unlikely that Wild Type Droid will find its way into the annals of hard rock and post-grunge, it’s only because it was released so far out of time. If quality is the only indicator of a classic, then you could expect to see Wild Type Droid become one rather quickly. As it stands, the cult status will have to do.