FENCES // Failure Sculpture “Deluxe Version” // Album Review
Re-released via ENCI Records of acclaimed 2019 album with 2 bonus Acoustic tracks. “I just wanted y’all to hear me play ‘em as is and in that room at that moment. One take with some light overdubs,” says Seattle based singer Chris Mansfield.
This album is poetry for the soul. Floating in with the slow but comforting ‘A Mission’ Chris Mansfield’s vocals are lullaby soft but their impact is hard. The lyrics liken patterns of drinking to habitual religion and the choral-like aaaahhhhs provide the ambience. Around the 2-minute mark, guitar wails mournfully, we’re talking brakes-on-rails and the words “and now I am a no-one” set the scene. An acoustic rendition of ‘A Mission’ is the first bonus re-worked track to be found at the end of this album. At 1:53 in length, it is shorter than the original but conveys an unedited rawness that adds weight to its message that alcohol is perhaps not always as helpful as we may think.
A short, sharp intake of breath and ‘Paper Route’ begins, a pretty little tune – reminiscent of raindrops – that hides the words of a painful truth. Often in the numbing sadness, we want to feel something – anything – but once we do, there’s no retreat. This song features one of my favourite lines on this album: “I should’ve known better to look up that day. Some people stay face down, they’re lucky that way.”
‘Same Blues’ has twangs, plinks and what sounds like a cello? This song isn’t particularly tuneful but it is strangely melodic, a ‘keeping-it-real’ love song: “You are the ashes, the cigarette smoke in my eyes” a clever contradiction of soothing and calming vocals with brutally real-life honest observations.
‘Brass Band’ (featuring Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta/ At the Drive-In fame) brings an assertive tone to what feels like a frustrated state of existence. Those times when we can’t settle, yet simultaneously can’t escape, when we feel unholy, in need of saving but can’t quite communicate that.
‘God Music’ is an angry song about getting over a breakup. Except it isn’t. It isn’t about getting over a breakup. It’s about hiding behind unhealthy coping mechanisms. This song features another of my favourite lines on this album: “They say lovers don’t leave you, well fuck ’em they lied, everyone leaves you ‘cause leaving is life” and a beautifully fuzzy outro that conjures the perfect sensation of sorrow-drowning. You’d wonder how it could be matched; however, it is this song that features as the second re-worked bonus and final track on this album and it works extraordinarily perfectly. For all of the Electric lunacy that this Acoustic version cuts from the end (it is again, around half the length of the original,) it provides stillness and a touch of melancholy that is achingly effective. A great round off and a worthy reiteration of perhaps my favourite song of the album.
There is no denying, the lyrics are a major part of this album. A similar tempo throughout, there are songs about revolving-door relationships, nostalgia, depression, regret, evaluating wrong-approaches to life and the futility of speaking without also listening. There are multiple poignant messages within its walls that drift in and out of your ears and psyche.