During their first go, Los Angeles alt-rock trio Failure lasted about as long as anyone could have expected them to. Though they had finally broken through commercially in 1996 with their album Fantastic Planet and its breakout single “Stuck On You,” the band’s members were also struggling with addiction, their glue that held the band together finally dissolving. By 1997 they had split, three albums under their belt and three separate career paths ahead of them. Ken Andrews built a successful career as a producer and engineer while launching a series of other bands, including On and Year of the Rabbit, while his former songwriting partner Greg Andrews carved out his own niche with Autolux. Drummer Kellii Scott, meanwhile, became a hired gun for the likes of Blinker the Star, Hole, Veruca Salt, Christina Aguilera and Melissa Auf Der Maur. Had everything continued as it did, the band might never have gotten any sense of closure, but at least they could be proud of having released three outstanding albums of alternative rock rich in sonic detail.
In February of 2014, however, Failure reunited to play their first show in 17 years, sounding tighter and stronger than they did with the backing of Warner subsidiary Slash and airtime on 120 Minutes. Clean, sober and focused, Failure re-emerged with a new sense of purpose, which translated over into the release of their fourth album and first new music in almost two decades, 2015’s The Heart Is A Monster. Though it didn’t outshine the band’s past glories, it did serve as a reminder of their unique strengths as a band, namely their ability to craft catchy rock songs within a grander scope and driven by massive, engulfing production. They also simply don’t do small statements.
In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind, the band’s fifth album, is similarly massive. Spanning 16 tracks, an hour in length and featuring three segue tracks—much like Fantastic Planet did—In the Future… is a lot to take in one sitting. It’s perhaps because of this that the band released it in four EP-length installments, the final piece arriving in late November, with a full-length album version delivered at the same time (not unlike what Robyn did with Body Talk). Yet taken individually, the three EPs don’t necessarily each have a dramatically different character. Rather, they’re each a sampling of punchy rock songs with more ethereal balladry and, in three out of four, an interlude. Pieced together, however, they form something stronger and more substantial. As EPs they’re all perfectly fine samplers, but they end up becoming a much better album on the whole.
Stylistically, however, In the Future… finds Failure retaining their strong melodic core while taking on a more diverse array of approaches. Leadoff track “Dark Speed,” for instance, is a more spacious track characterized by an ominous fuzz-bass chorus and twinkling guitar arpeggios. The tense, dense “Paralytic Flow” is classic Failure, all driving rhythms and eerie riffs. On “No One Left,” they showcase an urgency that immediately positions it as one of the album’s standouts, while “What Makes It Easy” is at once gentle and muscular, a gripping juxtaposition of ambience and tension.
Much like Fantastic Planet, it’s in the final quarter that In the Future… finds Failure lining up their showstoppers, from the psychedelic folk-grunge of “Another Post Human Dream” to the shoegazey chords of “Apocalypse Blooms” and the darkly sexy “Force Fed Rainbow.” It’s a climactic end to another ambitious set of songs from a band that doesn’t really know any other way to do it. Failure don’t necessarily have anything to prove at this stage—their live shows are as strong as ever, their first album after reuniting was strong, and their audiences post-reunion have eclipsed any that saw them the first time around. Yet Failure still aren’t done saying what they need to say, and based on how deep they went this time, still have a lot of good ideas left in the tank.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.