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Record Review: Fang Island’s Fang Island

By / Posted on 01 November 2010

Fang IslandAs I’ve said for nearly a decade now, I would only attend RISD if my intent was to drop out of form a rock band. Beyond my own petty rivalries with with alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design, it’s hard to ignore the pattern. Talking Heads formed at RISD, as did Les Savy Fav, Lightning Bolt and Black Dice along with the frontmen of A Place To Bury Strangers and Yeasayer. It’s a great school to go to if your aim is to forget about learning in favor of rocking and/or rolling. Now we have Fang Island, the hot new Brooklyn quintet formed at RISD in 2005. Shine on, system of higher education.

Fang Island’s self-titled debut LP (following two prior EPs) is an exuberant celebration of good times. The sunshine and positive energies of girlsareshort crossed with the well-intentioned guitar thrashing of Wyld Stallyns. Lyrics are minimal and largely unimportant because the soaring guitar harmonies tell all the stories that ever needed telling. Literally starting with fireworks (first listen may have you thinking your stereo speakers are popping), opener “Dream of Dreams” welcomes its audience into the gospel of Fang Island with swelling organ and the chorus “They are all within my reach. They are free.” All are welcome, all are loved. And then the friendly competition begins.

Reminiscent of late 80′s-early 90′s stadium rock, Fang Island’s sound is huge and yet never overwhelming or abrasive. The band describes their own sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone” and the comparison is apt. Lead single “Daisy” sounds positively triumphant. The slow synth chanting of “Davey Crockett” would fit in perfectly with any freak-folk jam before the dueling lead guitars square off in elated squeals of exultation. “Welcome Wagon”‘s swirling apogees bring to mind the end credits of classic Mega Man games of yore.

The overall vibe of Fang Island is that of success. Strife was in the past, the battle is won, we are here to tell the stories, but before that we are here to raise our fists in the air, whip the sweat-drenched hair from our brows, breathe a sigh of relief, and celebrate our victory. Summer camp rock at its absolute best, time will tell whether Fang Island are the next great thing in rock or just another voice to get sick of. For now, though, play it loud and play it proud, Fang Island is one of the most vibrant and exciting releases of 2010.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.