When: May 23rd, 2014
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.
Failure should’ve become Nirvana big. When they were last active back in the 90s, many thought that was their fate: to become the biggest alternative rock band on the face of the earth. If you listen to their two albums, Magnified and Fantastic Planet, they sound like larger-than-life rock records. Everything about them screamed "big" — their sound is huge, emphasized by thunderous drums and a massive bass guitar attack, and even better…they have hooks. Failure hardly made wallpaper music that fades into the background; these are songs that stuck with generations of real rock music fanatics and that couldn’t be any more apparent than through the enthusiastic crowd that turned up to see the newly reunited alt-rock heroes at the Metro last night.
Though the show didn’t sell out, that was hardly pertinent in the grand scheme of things. The audience that came to see Failure made enough noise to rival that of a packed house, and that’s because for most of us, we’ve been waiting close to two decades to see this pivotal band take the stage. Sure, frontman Ken Andrews has kept busy with his various projects (check out Year of the Rabbit or ON if you have a second), and Greg Edwards has been doing Autolux since about 2001. But Failure is where the stars align and something magical happens…the albums have held up nicely over the years, but this band is a force to be reckoned with onstage. Playing through two massive Sunn Model 15 loudspeakers and having mic’ed the drums to perfection, Failure has never sounded better. In fact, the Metro has never sounded better. I’ve seen countless shows at my favorite Chicago venue, but Failure really brought the best out of this room. Never has a band been so loud and sounded so flawless at the same time. With that said, this was also the loudest show I’ve ever seen at the Metro — and yes, that’s a good thing.
Opening up with “Another Space Song,” the rock trio blew through a hefty setlist like a force of nature. I could give you highlights of almost every song that set it apart from the last: the crunchy bass riff that opened “Frogs” and rattled the Metro’s floor; the muscular drumming of “Sergeant Politeness” that inspired the entire crowd to bang their heads; or Andrews’ soaring vocals that sent “Smoking Umbrellas” into full blown grandiosity. But it seems petty to just pick the show apart like that, doesn’t it? Especially since the guys will be back in Chicago in September to lay waste to a stage at Riot Fest, you should listen to this band as soon as you’re done reading this review. There’s nothing "little" about them — sure, Nirvana was just three guys who could make some very infectious noise. But Failure perfected the art of injecting some substance into rock music and actually sounding good all the while. After the show tonight, I think all of us who turned up at the Metro can agree…Failure is the musical equivalent of a fine wine; the band only gets better with time.