It's make or break time for FFAF with this album; 2003's Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation was only half new material and, regardless of how good that material was, longtime fans were a trifle pissed off at the band's laziness. So, I guess this could be considered their first proper full-length. The hype has been pretty ridiculous; "All Hail the Kings of Extremo" says the NME, with their usual bluster. Is it any good, though? Yup.
Opener "All The Rage" starts the album off strongly with some some excellent guitar-work and some of Matt Davies' strongest lyrics; " I'm sick and tired of always being the good guy" and "Like sitting in the back seat and boring me with your body / It's all the rage". Emo clichés they might be, but sung with such conviction (and Davies' vocals have never sounded better, Terry date did a helluva production job) they never fail to resonate with the listener.
The second track and lead single, "Streetcar," had a lot of radio play over here in the UK and ended up going top ten in the singles charts; it's a pretty catchy tune, with lyrics concerning lost loves and friends due to constant touring. It also features a pretty ridiculous middle section featuring various people saying down a phone line "I just can't feel the same about you anymore." It doesn't ruin the song or anything, but it's pretty fucking stupid sounding. The forthcoming single "Monsters" is nowhere near as catchy and with lyrical themes of despair and envy won't really get them a repeat appearance on Top of The Pops...which is probably a good thing.
The "screamo"-style songs on the record (of which there are only a few) are pretty much FFAF by numbers, which is good if you're a fan already but won't convert you if you're not. However, the slower songs, which make up the body of the album, are pretty fucking spectacular. First of these is "Hospitality" which concerns Matt's stay in hospital and has some striking lyrics: "I please forgive me / I'm no martyr" is just an example of his despair at the time, something anyone who's been a "benificiary" of our Nation Helath Service will attest.
One of the best songs on the album is "History" with its chant-along chorus sure to be a massive hit with a live audience; "Raise Your fingers for one last salute / and bleed this skyline dry / your history is mine" is sure to be ringing out around arenas pretty damn soon.
Album closer "Sonny," which, thankfully, bears no resemblance to the cloying New Found Glory song of the same name, is my favourite track on the disc. Similar to the closer "Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape" on Underoath's last CD its processed beat-beginning and loud ending (but bettering that song in every regard), it ends the album on a pretty high note, with Davies' vocals again being particularly strong. It is becoming a cliché (there's that word again) to end an album of this type with a slow song, but when it's this good you shouldn't care.
Overall, this is a fine effort from the band; it doesn't exceed expectations in any regard, but it certainly lives up to them. Feeling much more like an actual album than its predecessor, Hours successfully justifies its hype. Next time, maybe they'll get rid of the tired screaming altogether.