“It may be, in the process of roasting without the apple, that the jaws would tighten into a ghastly grimace. The apple can soften the look.”
—The Barbeque! Bible, Steven Raichlen
Failing’s name conjures the most blithe ideation of pain — the So Fucked We’re Laughing cadence. And Failing are fun, fun without sacrificing the industrial severity of rock brutalism: raw sludge textures come courtesy of Lindsey Hampton’s monstrous bottom end guitar, Will Kendrick’s drumming crashes with imperial imperative, and Shaunn Watt’s vocals escaping like tape reel pushing past the verge of dust. When the industrial detonation and throbbing propulsion reconfigures your sensibilities, each surgical shriek of Watt’s guitar earns a grin, each rhythmic thrum a physical empathy. Working with jagged mass, Failing cultivates a cool sheen: curatorial libertines of the absolute zero.
For most of Side A, they reconcile doom with combative pleasure. Opener “Eating Salt” produces an almost erotic satisfaction with precipitous beats between enormous heaves of reverberation. The upbeat four-count opening of “Blackened Pitch” provides momentum and bounce for apocalyptic-chic. “Paler” perpetuates this effect, evincing in particular the rhetorical sway of Watt’s vocals, an angst that demands revelry. In these songs, harsh as they are, the melodic lines are always compelling, always catchy.
If I were to voice one complaint with Failing’s extraordinary debut, it would be that perhaps Failing’s noise-rock vignettes only briefly reveal their potential for atavistic incomprehension. With vocals now more dissolute than dissonant, “Houses,” opening Side B, evinces the album’s depressive movement. And in the sonic abjection that concludes final track, “See Through,” the curtains are fully drawn back: Failing’s noise moves beyond the threshold of sensibility. Behold the man! or, pig, sans apple.