So they wowed the television-viewing world on the David Letterman Show in 2014, and the poor things have been a slave to the system ever since. ‘Touring Can Make You Crazy’, as Frank Zappa once noted, and Future Islands have reputedly played thousands of shows all over the world over the past three years mainly because viewers were so taken by that televisual performance, and then went and bought their then-current record, Singles. Heck, they even played Auckland’s Laneways festival in 2015.
Predictably, then, the group’s new album reflects the boring stress of that everlasting tour, and more specifically, the frayed and ended relationships that resulted from an that international jetsetting gypsy lifestyle. It’s all as boring for the listener to hear about as it undoubtedly was for the band to experience, but it has to be said: if you thought Singles was a great album, then The Far Field probably won’t disappoint, because it’s the same sound, the same formula, and features the same irritatingly mannered vocals by Samuel Herring.
But then, I was one of the many doubters. I perservered through several listens to Singles, trying to engage with whatever it was that people thought so wonderful about this sensational group. I hated it more after the third hearing than the first, which isn’t a good sign. On The Far Field, Herring’s singularly awful singing is less accentuated, further back in the mix, which has to be a good thing. The only problem is that the spotlight then shines directly on the mechanics of the band themselves, and a group who, aside from those New Order basslines has very little going for it.
Here’s a group that obviously grew up listening to Mum and Dad’s old synth-pop records, but their version of the ‘80s sounds even cheaper than the real thing, and the automaton beats and synth sequences utterly lack the charm of those exploratory synth-bands.
What a pity that 4AD – one of my all-time favourite labels – has sunk to releasing records like this.
[Note: Gary Steel reserves the right to reappraise and alter his star ratings up or down at any time].