I’ll apologise in advance: there’s no way for me to write this review objectively.
I say this not because of any deep-seated prejudice against impenetrably named spacebar-shirkers, nor, conversely, due to any neighbourly bias towards a band hailing from Sheffield, my own personal neck of the woods, in the UK (cringey glam rockers Def Leppard are proof enough that geographical connections aren’t so strong as to transcend all barriers). No, the reason I can’t review this objectively is because I first heard The Fall of Math a full four years ago, upon its release in Britain. That’s four years in which to absorb every last drop of its plentiful ingenuity, to grasp the merciless melting together of numerous genres, and admire the combination of almost robotic precision and an unlikely, euphoric emotional pull. Four years which have only reinforced the initial reaction that this is one of the best debut albums in recent memory. Between then and now, the four improbably inventive men trading under guise of 65daysofstatic have released an emphatic speeding bullet of a sophomore, as well as a disappointingly undercooked third album; they’ve played across the globe; performed before thousands of devotees night after night; and they’ve supported the Cure on a US tour. Yet it’s quite possible—likely, perhaps—that in creative terms, they’ll never better The Fall of Math.
Now, as it’s granted a long-overdue release in North America, I’m struggling to pin down quite what makes The Fall of Math so good. I know that it is; I can hear it. Even now, the sky-high melodic peaks of “Hole”, for instance, are spine-tingling, even more so for sitting so defiantly alongside the cut-up breakbeats and mash-ups of “Default This”. It’s just I’ve long accepted its greatness as fact, nestled into my subconscious; it just is. And you can’t backtrack, of course, either. Once something’s wormed its way inside of you like this, it’s there for good, absorbed so wholly that stripping it bare and analysing its objective musical merits just isn’t an option. That would make no more sense than critiquing each individual characteristic of that person you love, as though it’s the construction you fell for rather than the whole.
But with 65days, it’s not just knowing what it is that reels you in, it’s also knowing how to express it that’s the problem. Indeed, perhaps the greatest, and yet the most obvious, compliment it’s possible to pay the instrumental quartet is that they’re impossible to pigeonhole. Inevitably many have tried: some call it math-rock, some replace that particular prefix with ‘post-’, others prefer the more manageable but no more precise term of electronica. All paint only a fraction of the whole picture. 65days are 65days, and remain unclassifiable.
That’s not to say you can’t pinpoint influences, however. There’s clearly facets of the above genres amongst the myriad styles 65days themselves traverse, with Squarepusher and Mogwai, for instance, serving as convenient reference points for the swift “you might like this” check. But 65days themselves sound like neither Squarepusher or Mogwai. They’ve created their very own monster, as complex as it is gripping, as destructive as it is beautiful.
Indeed, it indicative of The Fall of Math‘s multifariousness that while its primary audience will be found amongst post-rockers and electro-geeks, its sound is much less exclusive than much of the fare put out in both those circles. Yes, “Default This” is a jittery hyperactive stop-gap of syncopated beats laid over a minimalist drip-drop keyboard line, but then “I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood” is so brimming with guitar and piano fugues that actually, you know, it’s pretty fucking catchy. Likewise, The Fall of Math is riddled with titular obscurities such as “Install a Beak in the Heart that Clucks Time in Arabic”, but then that track itself turns out to be led by a beat so energetic that head-nodding is a mandatory obligation.
So maybe its here, if anywhere in particular, that lays the glory of The Fall of Math: it has everything. It has technicality (“Install a Beak…”); it has simplicity (“Fix the Sky a Little”). It has quiet (the icy falls of “The Last Home Recording”); it has loud (the restless title track is particularly pummelling). It’s cerebral, but it’s also primitive, and euphoric. It is gloriously idiosyncratic, and yet succinct enough to warrant a brace of singles. Most tellingly, it’s the type of album you could gush about all day, all the while feeling there’s nothing you could say that’ll do it even close to justice.
Four years late, then; but better late than never. And while it’s clearly premature to talk of such haughty concepts as “standing the test of time”, that particular question was always going to be redundant with this release. Even now The Fall of Math sounds unequivocally ahead of its time. Ask a regular lottery player, ardent Guns ‘n’ Rose fan, or anyone with patience enough to still care when the Stone Roses finally followed up their eponymous debut: good things don’t always come to those who wait. But this one’s most definitely been worth it.
// Notes from the Road
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