EP REVIEW: DOCUMENTARIES BY THE LONG FACES
Snaking through more genres than the umbrella of rock can contain, The Long Faces stitch together an impressive three-track EP that makes every song feel like an extravagant adventure.
Originally from Kent, with members now spread out across the country including in Leeds, The Long Faces are perhaps the best band around when it comes to defying genre constraints. Mixing prog-rock structures, with an unusual but exciting mix of pop and jazz sensibilities, plus a healthy dash of Santana-like guitar virtuosity, all topped with a singer who is probably sick to death from comparisons to Morrissey, the five-piece occupy a lot of lanes. Yet, somehow, their presence in each of those worlds feels not only justified, but deserved. After a string of stand-alone singles, the group have finally put out a collection of three tracks that encapsulate all of the strands that make up the band.
The lead single and opening track, “Sail Away,” is fittingly an excellent introduction to the band if you’re previously unfamiliar with them. Alternating sections of rhythmic bass lines, funky drumming, and rocketing lead guitar tones, with jazzy verses that provide a backdrop for singer Tom Lane’s emotive voice, the band quickly demonstrate their multi-genre talents. As the track oscillates between the two sections, we are eventually brought to a lul. Bringing it right down to melodic guitar and bass passages over a purposeful rhythm brought by the drums, the band crescendo as Lane’s voice moves from controlled and melodic to frantic and feverish. The guitars soon match the feverish pitches Lane provided by erupting into a noisy solo that highlights the sheer vastness of influences on this record. Not letting that be the peak of the song, reverb-drenched vocals - this time with vocal backing reminiscent of a choral- bare their all over the rest of the band just letting loose. From start to finish, The Long Faces demonstrate the range of energy you can convey in just one song and somehow this is only the opener.
The Long Faces from left to right: Halden Cooke, Dan Ball, Tom Lane, Duy Phimasset, Kristina Rhodes
Almost as a palette cleanser after the pure energy of the opener, title track “Documentaries” starts with a wall of ambient noise and nature samples before properly coming in with a Bossa Nova inspired verse. Possessing your whole body and making it sway, the song proves the band’s talent for groove. As Lane calls forth, “You shoot me // And I’ll shoot you // And we can make documentaries too,” we are once again thrown into a passage of guitar solos, but rather than noise, the band gives us a warm and comforting passage. While this track, and perhaps the EP as a whole, indulge in these extended solo passages a bit too often for my liking (likely a result of their songwriting coming from jam sessions), they find ways to keep it interesting. The second solo in this track, for example, features Lane taking a suaver approach with a mix of speech, scatting, interjections of laughter, and eventually as the track fades out, a yelpy, charismatic delivery to his lyrics. Again, the band's capability for embracing such an array of approaches has to be commended.
The closer, “And Where Have You Gone, Mr. Wolf,” is perhaps the easiest to pin down stylistically. Somewhere between the indie-rock of The Smiths, and the inventive alt-rock of U2, the track is perhaps the least exciting of the three though that is probably more a testament to the quality of the two that precede it than an indictment of “Mr. Wolf”. Featuring many of the traits found in the other two tracks like mellow verses and energetic choruses followed by guitar solos, it feels like more of a summary of the EP so far rather than a track on its own. That said, there are two incredibly strong moments on the track that stand strong. The first is without question, the funk-rock breakdown with disparate vocal samples that come in from left, right, and center, slowly consuming the whole track. The second, however, is likely not just the highlight of the track but the EP as a whole. As we enter the last minute of the track, the backing vocals of guitarist Halden Cooke and bassist Kristina Rhodes join Lane in building a monumentally impressive end to the track over Dan Ball’s frenetic drumming and Duy Phimasset’s shredding. As the track fades, it does so by encapsulating all that makes the band so exciting: their synthesis of so many musical worlds, their embrace of quirky inventiveness, and most of all, their love of highly energetic performances.
Writing by Varun Govil