Second time's a charm. The first time my ears heard the strains of From Lausanne, Switzerland by Favez, I can't say that I was very impressed. The album sounded like capable radio rock, but not much else. So the disc was put aside while other scheduled discs were written up and reviewed in the usual fashion. Then it came time for Favez once again. Funny how a little time can make all the difference.
The second listen to this Swiss group perked my ears up and got the reaction I'm sure the band was hoping for: one of head bobbing, toe tapping interest. And while not everything on the album is terrific, Favez do have a sound that upon closer scrutiny reveals itself to be ahead of the pack in the rock arena. A band that is doing well over on the other side of the globe, it remains to be seen whether or not Favez will score enough notice in the States to make others take notice. After all, this album was released back in April and I've yet to hear a ripple from the press elsewhere over here.
Perhaps there's a stigma with coming from Switzerland. Euro groups that don't fall within the confines of Great Britain often have a tough time breaking through in the US. Why this is will remain puzzling, as there have been all sorts of fine groups that have had great success in Europe, only to become one hit wonders or not heard at all in the land of rock and roll where for one reason or another it's considered huge to succeed in America. My thoughts are that perhaps we as the American market should be looking elsewhere and tuning into these great bands hiding out elsewhere on the planet. Why must everyone fucking come to us?
But before this turns into a piece on the whole business and the entire Hollywood ethic of here today, gone today that has permeated the industry, let's focus on Favez. Front man Chris Wicky has an American mother and spent summers in Connecticut. So surprise, surprise, those who fear Euro rock will not feel alienated at all when listening to the songs on this album. Funny how so many will shy away at the first hint of an accent that doesn't sound "familiar". But to those folks, I can only point the way to acts like Shonen Knife and Pizzicato Five who have flourished in their native tongues for the most part.
But one listen to the first song here, "The Ages Of Wonder", and it's apparent that these guys have an international sound (read: "American" to those who regard such labels as ironically regional) that has a real appeal across the board. This opening song seems to embrace everything from raging arena rock guitars to quirky college pop during its quieter sections. And there's even the nod to Eno when Wicky sings "Here come the warm jets my friend" at the choruses.
After that, there's the lickety-split guitars that turn into eerie Leslie-drenched dressings in "Someday All This Will Be Mine". There's also the truly tasty bounce of "Show Me How To Groove" that veers between the snarl of Dinosaur Jr., the frenetic smack of Archers of Loaf, and the knottier moments of Pavement. Quite a nice feat, and impressive that such an undertaking could be accomplished.
If there is one problem with this album, it's that some of the tunes start sounding the same in spots. "Don't Let The Riot In" waters down the eclecticism of "Show Me How to Groove" and sounds like a poor Xerox. "Chasing Honesty" also tends to run a little high on overdrive for too long. These guys are at their best when they play between tempos and moods, such as on the terrific "Son of Steve McQueen", the album's highlight. Following that is the powerful "I Brake for No One", and the odd "Live from the Kilby Court" that features some interesting lyrical ruminations.
In all, From Lausanne, Switzerland is a solid album, pretty well balanced save for a couple generic moments that fortunately do not detract from the overall album. Consequently, if any Euro band could get a toehold in the American market, placing money on Favez might not be such a bad idea. They have a good sound that is approachable and marketable, and if anyone's listening (or reading), these guys deserve a shot at the big time.