Let’s face it – regardless of your creative medium, if you choose a zombie theme for your latest project, you get our attention. Simple as that. What with all the sparkly vampires and buffed-out werewolves running around lately, the less-informed might think the notion of doing a zombie-themed concept album is slightly behind the popular curve, but FEARnet readers know better… because as far as I can tell, the walking dead have limitless potential, as long as there’s a sharp and original idea re-animating those shambling hunks o’ lovin’. Up-and-coming pop-punk outfit For All Those Sleeping (FATS) decided to take a comically romantic approach to the material… and the result is the clever and wildly entertaining debut album Cross Your Fingers, scheduled for release next Tuesday from Fearless Records. Read on and learn more about the band’s musical love affair with those adorable dead!
Formed just a few years ago in St. Cloud, Minnesota, FATS has consistently brought a great party vibe to their material onstage, which built them a solid rep across the Midwest, got them a spot on the Vans Warped tour, and drew a massive legion of online fans via MySpace, with over a million plays as of this writing. Another bit of viral infamy emerged around the band last year in the form of a bizarre chunk-blowing video that looks like it was inspired by the “dairy challenge” portion of the MAD TV skit “Kenny Rogers Jackass”… but that’s another story, and I'd prefer to hang onto my breakfast.
After a fair amount of success with the 2008 EP The Lies We Live, the guys made a trek to Florida to record their first full-length record, with prolific indie musician Cameron Mizell (once head of production at Verve Records, currently a well-known advisor to DIY musicians) handling production. The result is a clean, tight and melodically pure collection of fast, fun and memorable tunes that manage to capture the immediacy and personality of a live set – thanks to the band's loose, effortless performing style – while throwing in some subtle synth twinkles & glitch effects that add quirky new colors to the palette.
The whole living-dead theme runs rampant through this one (both literally and metaphorically), and although FATS isn’t a horror-themed band, their love of the genre is clearly evident: the comical artwork for the album (love that flying eyeball) and the first singles I’m Not Dead Yet and Never Leave Northfield features bouquet-bearing male and female undead in what appears to be the awkward beginnings of a first date, and most of the songs here reference an ominous plague moving through the streets, homes and finally the mostly unprepared inhabitants of Minnesota. The infection is mostly metaphorical in the powerful opener Outbreak of Heartache, but the ensuing disaster becomes explicitly literal in the follow-up Never Leave Northfield. “This is a fight for your life,” frontman Mike Champa wails and shouts with a gruff backing chorus. “This town is ours, so don’t make a sound/But if you’re feeling lucky, I’ll save two last rounds.”
I’m Not Dead Yet continues down that darker path, internalizing the fear as the protagonist feels the infection growing within, conveyed with harsher, deeper screams dominating the verses and a heavy, droning breakdown. The following tracks Janice, It Ain’t Funny and I Hate to See You Go returned to a more conventional teen-breakup melodrama groove that almost pulled me out of the haunting mood – hell, maybe I'm just too old and evil to appreciate that kind of thing anymore – but strangely enough, the brighter, more upbeat tones of Run Away serve as a cool ironic counterpoint if taken in context of impending zombie-geddon, with its themes of escaping to the haven of the west coast. Even in a less horrifying worldview, it works as a straightforward love theme thanks to a very catchy melody, making it an ideal future single.
The Midnight Society plays with more deliberately dark imagery (“We've all heard ghost stories but never before seen... Don't scream when three bells ring”), while the sinister cut He’s Dead Because Mommy Killed Him – probably the most expressive and epic track on this record – throws aside metaphor in favor of straight-up nightmare fuel: “If you don't wake up screaming,” comes the demonic refrain, “you won't wake up at all.” Favorite Liar feels like the emotional resolution to this tale of doomed romance, while the jokey title of closing cut, If I Wanted Your Two Cents I’d Rob You, belies a more pensive, self-reflective epilogue.
This band don’t necessarily knock down the fairly well-established norms of heavy pop or melodic hardcore, but their writing is always clever and juiced with hooks-a-plenty, and the songs all work really well in that context. Like label-mate Alesana (whose Poe-themed epic The Emptiness we featured this spring), they manage to render themes of horror and darkness with a youthful, bittersweet energy. The end result marks Cross Your Fingers as an impressive first step into a larger arena for this energetic popcore combo, and the wild sing-along vibe should make it an ideal entry in your Halloween party playlist.