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Fury - Failed Entertainment Music Album Reviews

The O.C. hardcore band level up their sound on their second album but remain gruff, guttural, and ferocious.

Fury have reached that level of success where they’ve been given the opportunity to make something other than a hardcore album. You know the drill: sign with a bigger punk or metal-leaning label, get a bigger-name producer, and throw in some more populist gestures so the newfound exposure outside of the literal and figurative hardcore fanbase can lead to backhanded compliments about how it “transcends the genre.” This is all true of Orange County, California band’s Run For Cover debut Failed Entertainment, the long-awaited follow up to 2016’s Paramount that comes with engineering credits from grunge legend Jack Endino and Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage. But Fury might more intent on upholding traditional structures rather than deconstructing them—Failed Entertainment is welcoming to basically anyone who wants get rowdy in the pit.

Fury don’t let their ambitions get in the way of what’s worked for their punk and hardcore heroes: They know why palm-muting during the verse makes the nasty riff more satisfying (“Angels Over Berlin”), when to bring back the nasty riff, but slower and also when to go into double time, what words sound best as gang vocals (“America,” obviously) and which ones work best as call-and-response (“Vacation”). But now that they’re past the point of having to prove themselves within a 15-minute set among five other bands, Fury have earned the right to add an extra bridge, to play at a tempo closer to groove metal, and bring out a latent allegiance to 90s Brit-rock, like a tambourine and nasal backup vocals on “Crazy Horses Run Free” or the booming drum intro in “Birds of Paradise.”

Jeremy Stith’s lyrical style has been Fury’s defining characteristic from the jump and similar to the equally ruminative post-hardcore exegesis from their new labelmates Self Defense Family’s Have You Considered Punk Music?, Failed Entertainment alludes to the inadequacies of his chosen medium right there in its title. In a recent column that named Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard as patron saints of Failed Entertainment, Stith makes only one brief mention of a fellow musician—“Now with hardcore, almost every decision a band faces comes with the question, ‘What would Ian MacKaye do?’” as in, how can Fury be intentional about their ethics and the meaning of their art as humanly possible?

MacKaye once sang “America is a word, but I use it,” and Fury likewise know how to weaponize it—for a hardcore band, there are few better nuclear options than actually making a song called “America” (“Innocence isn’t my America”) and later on in “Birds of Paradise,” Stith shouts “U.S. of A., just an idea to me.” This is one of the few lyrics on Failed Entertainment he feels necessary to use twice.

Otherwise, Fury sound like they could’ve been peers of Fugazi and probably would’ve avoided their firm stance against major labels or festivals. While Failed Entertainment is less flashy than last year’s big hardcore breakthrough—the genre-agnostic nu-metal splatter of Turnstile’s Time & Space—there’s a similar spirit of the flush ’90s at a time when the industry’s been inverted for rock bands. Nirvana once led major labels to throw money at any loud, grim band with even a modicum of melody: Helmet were the subjects of a seven-figure bidding war, NYC shitkickers Orange 9mm and CIV were stuffed into the same Buzz Bin as Nada Surf and Cake, Unsane crashed MTV with a skate blooper reel.

These are the acts that Fury evoke here, gruff, guttural and with a generally grim disposition —what people in southern California consider to be an “East Coast sensibility.” But if Failed Entertainment doesn’t have the brash bluster of the typical hardcore “level up,” it’s because Stith sees those levels as illusory, still focused on surviving the artistic, mental, and political purgatories in which we exist. “The grey is clear/But too cold to continue/No, not there/Here,” he shouts on the album’s first line, an unsubtle reminder of Fury’s enduring challenge to the absolutist thinking that makes hardcore so seductive and escapist in the first place. “Peace lies inside the grey,” Stith assures later on and while this world is grim, it’s all we got.

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