Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Fantastic Planet - Failure
Space rock is not the medium in which you would expect a story to be told, especially a story such as the one featured in "Fantastic Planet". Failure retell a tale just as hopeless and depressing as it is grounded in gritty realism. The immediate contrast is fitting for the main theme, the process of use, addiction and rejection of heroin. Memories of the drug are portrayed through a filter thats similar, in the drifting, detached way of space rock, to the effects of the drug itself. So with "Fantastic Planet", Failure is not merely describing front-man Ken Andrew's memories, they're letting you experience them first hand.
Structurally, "Fantastic Planet" mirrors the chronology of Andrew's drug use. The beginning displays regret, a complicated sequence of chimes (something of a reacurring theme in the album) is introduced before the next two songs introduce us to Andrew's character. He's desperately affected both by the loss of breaking up with his girlfriend and having been left without a purpose in life. "Segue 1" marks his entrance into chaos and despair, it begins with a single chord but quickly splinters into multiple layers that twist around each other, never quite fitting into any comfortable place and then finally rolling into something more controlled. The songs that follow incorporate a large post-grunge influence, with crunching chords and lyrics that are not so much sung, rather shouted, at the microphone. This section of the album ends with "Blank", the moment where Andrews caves in and takes the drug. He casually tells us:
"I like the blank way
I fill up my life
I'm living on the moon."
"Segue 2", and the following songs before Segue 3, admittedly mark a rather weak point in the album. While they document the use of heroin and the relief that it offers well enough, it's devoid of the chaotic emotions that overshadowed, and made, the songs before and it doesn't even approach the raw beauty of the songs it proceeds. If we're brutally honest, the section borders on bland at times, though omitting the section would be impossible unless you would want to degrade "Fantastic Planet" from an album into simply a collection of loosely associated songs.
Ultimately this doesn't matter, because Segue 3 and the songs that come after it create the best ending to any album most of us are likely to ever set our ears to. "The Nurse Who Loved Me" begins softly, the chorus of "She's got everything I need. Pharmacy Keys." is barely whispered before the song explodes into a wave of sound. Andrews then bellows that same chorus, throwing all of his emotion at the microphone in an endearing display of a man who has little to live for and desperately clings to all that he has left.
This emotion is not something which can be said to be on at the forefront of the album. It's integral to the tone and to most of "Fantastic Planet's" effect, but for the most part it's only implied. The lyrics do not portray a man absorbed in his own self-pity but instead they shows the fragile inner-workings of the mind of a man who's close to the edge. While we are not instructed to, you can't help but sympathise with the man who's just let everything get out of hand and is almost powerless to prevent the inevitable spiral of losing absolutely everything, including his mind.
"Fantastic Planet" ends with "Daylight", documenting the moment where we emerge tentatively into the real world, confused and lonely, just as we were at the beginning of the album but grown more solemn throughout its duration. The chimes return, but now they seem beautiful instead of chaotic and the last few minutes of a pounding, instrumental barrage ends one of the most powerful experiences you can ask for.