The Fades have “Night Terrors”

Punk Rock. Let’s talk about it. It’s a topic of much debate in sub-culture regarding where it started, who started it, who’s the “punkiest” of them all, etc. None of that is of much consequence for me, honestly. I just happen to find it to be a fascinating discussion. It’s not a hill I need to die on. However, what I do think is an important thing to understand, is the significant cultural impact the genre has had in the U.K. since approximately 1976 and onward. Okay maybe it’s not at the top of “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs important” or whatnot, but it’s important in the sense of understanding the sound, fury, and relevance that is The Fade’s new album “Night Terrors.” A London based band, their sound is rooted in a formative punk rock and post-punk direction that reminds me of The Clash, Joy Division, and the like. They have a discography that dates back as far as 2003 on their website, and to 2007 on their Spotify page. So, in terms of overall sound I also detect a bit of modern influence as well. My initial first impressions of potential influence, outside of the foundational classics referenced before, are bands like Anti-Flag, Billy Talent, and The Interrupters. However, that goulash of punk inspired ethos is just one aspect of the band. I think The Fades as a band are distinct in their own brand of punk rock as they also will venture musically into obscurity with psychedelic dissonance like a classic rock or garage rock band from the 1960s. It is truly a sonic experience.

Conceptually, “Night Terrors” conveys themes of fear and anxieties that arose during turbulent times for lead singer Dave Lightfoot. Lightfoot recounts regularly finding himself “wide awake at 3am thinking about everything, everywhere, all at once.” In that context, much of the album is introspective in nature. Despite stark contrasts throughout the album, however, there are uplifting and upbeat moments. Lightfoot himself even submits that there are themes embedded throughout the album intended to express “hopes and change for the future.” All in all, the band cites that the bottom line inspiration for the album revolves around the idea to live life to the fullest. The band consists of four members: brothers Dave (vocalist and guitarist) and James Lightfoot (on bass), Jonny Barnard (guitarist) and “Flash” Thorpe on drums. All members are credited with songwriting on every track. Another thing I found interesting about this band was the sentiment expressed in their letter/message to their fans on their website about the new record. It was essentially a “Declaration of Independence,” well, um.. let me re-state, that epithet is probably much maligned to be confused with something else…um… a “Declaration of DIY,” if you will. Certainly admirable, in my opinion, in the spirit of punk rock. In the letter/message, the band expresses their intent to not only proceed with making the record on their own this time around with no label backing, but also to press the records (as in vinyl) themselves as well. And perhaps the most remarkable thing I found in their press kit, was a quote from one John Moore (Jesus and Mary Chain / Black Box Recorder) calling the band “the best thing to come out of Richmond since The Yardbirds.” Wow. That is some impressive and high praise. Mind blown.

The Fades at Brixton Studios with Producer Stephen Gilchrist

A bit about the recording process for the album: The Fades spent a weekend at Brixton Hill Studios using analogue equipment in an attempt to capture their true live sound. This is an interesting approach in recording that I really like. That approach always reminds me of stories I would hear about Steve Albini in recording some of those classic records he was involved with in the past (“In Utero,” “American Don,” “Surfer Rosa,” the list goes on). I am also of the opinion that if you have the right acoustics and equipment to do it, that live energy really does translate well. With this record, I feel that was accomplished and was well done. I am curious as to how closely to “Steve Albini form” the band and producer stayed, as he used to be adamant about most of the tracking being done by full band, with the majority of a track being a single take performed together at once, with minimal punches and overdubs in post production. Again, not a hill I’m willing to die on, just curious. As a DIY artist myself with a substantial lack of rehearsal and studio space, I have absolutely no qualms at all in my digital realm and extensive post production. It would just be fascinating to know from an artistic standpoint. The energy translates well on the album, just about every song ends in sonic dissonance and feedback, it feels like you are at a live show listening to the band play a set. In that spirit, I dug through their YouTube channel and found some cool live footage to add context:

“It’s like someone fired a surf-punk into the sun at warp speed while a heavenly choir rejoices in the shredding with their beatific ‘aaaaahs’

Paul Cook, Fresh on the Net

In sweet irony, speaking more to the production approach and me speculating about the “artistic” intricacies involving the analogue processes, I actually stumbled upon this humorous video of Stephen Gilchrist, the producer of the album. Let’s just say he is perhaps a bit more satirical about the approach than I, in recounting it. Some of my favorite quips from his recollections of working with the band include: “one evening, they brought some drunken friends in to do some singing” (saying “singing” in quotation marks, haha). He describes what appears to be some kind of NDA he’s reading for the interview as “Legal shit.” And my personal favorite: “There was a lot of Fried chicken eaten. Especially by the drummer.”

Here’s a breakdown of the album track by track:

Time is Right: A nearly instrumental, if not for the catchy “aahhh ahhhs,” it is a punk rock anthem. This track in particular reminds me of Anti-Flag in energy. Strikes me as an “opener” or “closer” song live. I wonder if in their current set they use it for the opener or if they use it in the way Pennywise used to go out with a big time crowd sing along with the “whoa oh oh’s” on “Bro Hymn.” Per the band, the personal meaning is implied by the title, projecting that “the time is right to move forward and get on with living!”

You Follow Me Around: A very catchy tune, the context seems to be talking about someone who is manipulative and showing fake admiration to get what they want. Struck me like he was talking about an obsessive fan or person. According to the band, it’s about an experience Dave had in which he was dually stalked by an ex-partner … and … his cat?

The Pessimist: This one sounds like a grunge song to me, so you know I’m going to love it. I consider it classically grunge when lyrics are generally cryptic but the overarching concept is implied by a catchy phrase in the chorus (“I’ll find something wrong” repeated) and by title. The band describes it as “Sabbath-esque” in guitar influence.

Drives Me On: This song is certainly one that fits the “surfy” description that many have tagged the band with. In the chorus Dave sings “You are the drug that.. drives me on” and the band describes this song as being about friends that help you get out of a rut. It’s a rocking song. This one in particular strikes me as influenced by The Clash. It has a post-punk feel, some funky chord strums in between verse phrases. Sounds really old-school English punk rock.

Lost my Job: This like the last song, has some nice little disco funky guitar licks in between verse phrases. Among my favorite lines in the song: “Everything I got is now on EBAY.” I like the incorporation of a trumpet, that gives an interesting vibe to the song. The primary guitar riff is rocking and catchy like a Billy Talent song. This is a song we’re featuring during the new singles portion of “Indie Anarchy” on Tuesdays through Thursday evenings at 7pm to 9pm PST on AMS Radio.

People in General: What else can I say? I’ll probably never get tired of Punk Rock songs about how generally people suck. This along with a couple other examples on the album, has a rocking 1970s type of main guitar riff. It’s riffs like this that I think eventually became derivative elements in punk rock implemented by bands like Black Flag. Lyrically, I initially thought it was a straight forward punk song that broke down into frantic talk spurred by social anxiety. I found out later via the band that the breakdown mid-song is actually a psychedelic monologue by Les “Fruitbat” Carter. That’s cool.

Night terrors is another song with a super catchy main guitar riff that sounds like it’s straight out of a 1970s stoner hard rock song. Ultimately, the English punk rock influence takes over and picks up the pace. Lyrically, it seemed to me that it was primarily talking about gathering and pulling yourself together. Nicely incorporated trumpet again. There are big time, rocking, crescendo guitar solos that carry you off into the horizon at the end. FREEBIRRDD!!!

Known It All Along: Another great grungy sounding track. I particularly like the “I was thinking” female vocal melody used in a callback cadence back and forth between a sinister sounding megaphone effect on Dave’s voice. It sounds to me like a meaner, aggro, Gorrillaz. The song ends with spasmic grunting, and crashing noise. Like a noise rock/ grunge “A Day in the Life” happening in the middle of the song and again at the end.

Television: The feel for this song starts out like the band’s going to slow it down. Keeping in mind the idea was to capture that live essence of the band, that’s how it came off to me. This one can be filed under the “surfy” category too. “Flash” hangs out on the ride cymbal while the lead guitar plays a catchy James Bond type of modulation and tone. The rhythm section plays a stutter step type of riff while the bass walks up and down in notes of the progression. This one is kind of artsy. Just when you begin to think this song is an instrumental or perhaps an interlude, vocals kick in at nearly 3 minutes into the song. Almost 10 minutes in entirety, if the last song was a noise-rock “A Day in The Life,” this one is the an angsty, post-punk “Revolution 9.”

Wake Up Generation: This is a second song from this album that I put into rotation during the “new singles” segment of “Indie Anarchy” time slot Tuesdays through Thursdays 7-9pm PST. It starts out sounding Pop-Punk before dropping to just bass and drum in certain parts. This track is more on the upbeat, as a closer to the album. In step with the “live life to the fullest” sentiment expressed by the band, the lyrics “we’re all going to live a life, maybe not very long, so try not to skip it, while singing this song” repeat as a catchy centerpiece of the hook. This song has Reggae elements to it, again reminding me at times of The Clash, or more recently in the same vein, Rancid, or The Interrupters. The album even ends with audience applause further signifying the intent of capturing a live show energy.

This is definitely an album that works very well with playing from beginning to end because of that intentional effort to capture a live essence. There are a couple songs you could cherry pick out to be “more radio friendly” than others certainly, but that’s what makes the entire album such a good record overall. You can get also get a fully loaded garage rock experience similar to that of classic rock records of the past, while sitting down listening to it front to back.

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