Wednesday, July 9, 2008

For Against "December" (Chameleon, 1988)




Artist: For Against
Album: "December"
Release Date: 1988
Label: Chameleon
Genre: Indie-Pop, Dream-Pop, Shoegaze, Post-Punk
Mood: Intimate, Gloomy, Bitter, Wintry
Reminds Of: The Sound, REM, The Chameleons UK, Echo & The Bunnymen
What People Think: SplendidMagazine, PopMatters
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, RedSunRecords

Tracklist
1. Sabres
2. Stranded In Greenland
3. Svengali
4. They Said
5. The Effect
6. December
7. The Last Laugh
8. Paperwhites
9. Clandestine High Holy

Nebraska's lone entry into the dream pop world, For Against initially consisted of bassist and vocalist Jeffrey Runnings, guitarist Harry Dingman, and drummer Greg Hill. Dingman and Hill left after 1988's December to form the Millions, and they were replaced by Steven "Mave" Hinrichs and Paul Engelhard after a replacement lineup failed to work out. (Dingman later returned for 2008's Shade Side Sunny Side.) Since its inception, Runnings' band has consistently produced a drifting yet distinctly rhythmic sound, soldiering through the myriad alternative scenes of the '80s and '90s. With one foot in the British post-punk of Joy Division and the other in the gliding atmospherics of Kitchens of Distinction, For Against are treasured by shamefully few; geography and infrequent touring have not helped.

For Against's stark and chilling second album is their best, one of the most powerful dream pop releases of the late '80s. Harry Dingman's icicle shots of chiming guitars, Greg Hill and Jeffrey Runnings' agile rhythmic thrust, and Runnings' boyish (but every bit as forceful) vocals rarely combine for a less-than-riveting listen. With its fluid bass-and-drum punch and enveloping twists of guitars, December's most fitting reference point is the Chameleons' Script of the Bridge. Balancing the aggressive with the reserved just as well as its prime inspiration, December's nine songs float, skip, and roam with a level of immaculately-paced grace that can't be heard on most albums of the era. Runnings' anguished expressions of despair, resentment, and embittered bile hit with the same scythe-like precision of Bob Mould's best output -- in fact, given the atmospherics and complementary production at play (including the ideal amount of reverb), the songs are even more haunting than Mould's relatively pure-pop leanings. "The Last Laugh" is one of the first places to go for an example of the album at its best. After Runnings accuses a partner of giving him a nervous breakdown and pleads to get his life back, the song shifts into a dextrous tempo change that recalls the controlled jerkiness of post-punk's upper tier and spins catharsis back into fraught tension. At 36 minutes, December plays briefly but leaves the effect of an epic. Understated but full of ambition, it's a sticky trap. Though it was released on a respected label -- albeit one with limited distribution and exposure -- it's frustrating to think of how revered it would've been if it had instead featured a 4AD catalog number.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“Deceptively boyish delivery…”

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