[25 January 2011]
Funeral Party’s debut album begins with a heck of an opening track. “New York City Moves to the Sound of LA” is a dance-inflected post-punk song that features a rumbling bassline, Latin-style agogo bells, high-speed hi-hat cymbals, and a catchy, angular guitar riff. Frontman Chad Elliot shout-sings his way through the verses before getting a bit more melodic in the chorus, saying “Now I know / That it’s all been done before and will all be done again / So pick up the trends”. It’s a strong start that’s echoed in the even dancier second song, “Car Wars”. This one features a full-on disco beat and bassline, not to mention the pitch-perfect inclusion of bongos in the background. The guitars from James Torres and Elliot’s vocals keep the song from sounding too polished, though, and Funeral Party ends up firmly on the post-punk side of their genre, albeit with a strong dance vibe.
“Car Wars” is also where small problems start to show up in Funeral Party’s music. Despite the excellent groove, the song doesn’t leave much of an impression. After a few listens it becomes apparent that there’s very little beyond the groove that is memorable about the track. There’s no catchy guitar riff or great vocal melody to be found here. Third track “Finale” is more of the same. It has a couple of strong elements: A catchy, complex drumbeat and a really nice background synth line. Elliot’s yowl is impressive on this song too, and there’s a solid bridge featuring gang-vocal shouting, but once again there isn’t much melody to really drive the song, so it mostly relies on the forward propulsion of its drumbeat.
As Golden Age of Knowhere moves along, Funeral Party’s deficiencies become more obvious. Their songs are almost all uptempo and upbeat-sounding, even when Elliot’s lyrics are angry. Guitar riffs and melodic hooks are in short supply after the first track, though, so the songs start to run together even before the halfway point of the album. The addition of Latin percussion to the band’s post-punk sound is a great element, but it largely disappears after the album’s first two tracks. This no doubt contributes to the rest of the album’s lack of character.
Chad Elliot is a versatile vocalist who has a great singing voice and is also strong when shouting at the top of his lungs, but since the band has trouble writing memorable melodies, he often feels wasted here. On the plus side, Funeral Party has a lot of enthusiasm and their album manages to stay high energy all the way through. The production from Lars Stalfors also finds a sweet spot where the music is rough enough to rock, but clean enough to be danceable as well. Sadly, though, Golden Age of Knowhere peaks at the beginning and slides gradually downhill from the moment “New York City Moves to the Sound of LA” ends. This leaves Funeral Party as a band that’s stuck with the dreaded “they have potential” label, but has yet to realize such.