Music

Favourite Sons: Down Beside Your Beaut

New New York band Favourite Sons traffics in rock-n-roll cliche but still shows promise on their debut record


Favourite Sons

Down Beside Your Beauty

Label: Vice
US Release Date: 2006-09-12
UK Release Date: 2006-10-30
Amazon
iTunes

New York's Favourite Sons make no apologies about being a straight-up rock band. They're older and, perhaps, wiser than most bands just getting around to releasing their debut -- but then again, most bands don't have quite the same not-quite-pedigree indie legacy that these guys do. Specifically, vocalist and principal songwriter Ken Griffin led 90s indie band Rollerskate Skinny; the other band members were previously Philadelphia-based band Aspera. Not knowing anything about either of these bands, it's enough to understand that the group's members have all been through the hard slog of starting a band, demoing tunes, recording an album, promoting, performing -- the whole thing -- at least once before.

Sticking to the universal themes that hang around rock music like a bad smell -- love, death, love -- Favourite Sons seem to have deliberately circumscribed experimentation for these recognizable rock tropes. Or maybe it's just that Griffin only thinks in these conventional terms. Either way, we're left with music that, while totally competent, sometimes fails to blow the listener away with insight or power. The instrumentation follows this model, too, with guitars that jangle but rarely thunder; with two guitars and a bass, the sound of Favourite Sons could certainly have been more aggressive.

Instead, we get some interesting Nick Cave-isms, the occasional Strokes reference, and the occasional side-stepping of parody. It's most obviously combined in the title track, where the epic instrumentation, tom-tom percussion and overwrought vocals are one step away from "Wonderboy". But the band neatly avoids this self-parody by putting true feeling out there. As with "The Tall Grass", Nick Cave's morbid baritone informs Griffin's phrasing and feeling; in contrast, the music is much less complex than Cave's, and spins easily back into straight rock-pop.

A trio of strong songs bolster the disc's second half, but it's not enough to firmly establish Favourite Sons as something separate from its web of influences. "Tear The Room Apart" tones down the melodrama for multi-tracked vocals and patent romance; "Round Here" uses big, atmospheric cymbals and a disgusted, downtrodden chorus; and "Hang On, Girl" effectively employs a chugging rock background that could have been an old idea from Is This It, though it never feels derivative.

Favourite Sons are going to have to do something a little more novel, though, to become a favourite band. Their combination of melodrama and power has been done before and by a master of the genre, such that this new band can't hope to match; but they've still got a solid command of the basic elements of writing rock songs. This should stand them in good stead for next time around.

5

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image