The hype machine has been screaming the words “fake” and “problems” at the top of its lungs for quite some time now -- and people have been listening. Other reviews of Fake Problems' latest offering, It’s Great to Be Alive, are already proclaiming the band to be ‘this year's Gaslight Anthem’ and it is difficult to find anything written of the Naples, Florida based four-piece where neighbours, the influential Against Me!, are not referenced. But by signing to Side One Dummy for this latest release, the band have taken a symbolic leap, out of the shadows of their older contemporaries and into the spotlight all on their own.
The group have clearly matured musically since writing their previous full-length, How Far Our Bodies Go, and as such there is added instrumentation, mainly of the brass persuasion, to be found on these new songs. Essentially, the progression of Fake Problems is one that seems entirely natural -- an evolution in musicianship that has led to a more layered, slightly more complex sound. The band are still entirely in love with simple melody, as is documented by single "The Dream Team," but there is something more to be found here. The epic ending to "You’re a Serpent, You’re a She-Snake" arrives like a bolt from the sky, preceding "Don’t Worry Baby," which at one point breaks into something that resembles an Eastern-European shanty Eugene Hutz would be proud of.
Again, Chris Farren’s lyricism is intriguing and imaginative as he continues on his journey into the realms of the existential -- this time repeatedly pondering heaven, hell and religiosity. "Level with the Devil" is a great wondering staccato jig, complete with kazoo, keys and trumpet, accompanied by some great guitar work from Casey Lee and ending with an atmospheric, glockenspiel-infused acoustic outro that has Farren singing, "Do you believe in me / are you gonna sleep tonight / do you believe in anything / are you gonna sleep tonight with a Bible under your bed?"
"Diamond Rings" is an obvious contender for the next single, and is certainly one for all the bad dancers among us, including what sounds like an appearance from Prince on backing vocals. The humble "Tabernacle Song" is a reflective ballad pinned together with keys, and is contrasted with the following number, the raucous "Alligator Assassinator," which is absolutely begging to be blared from the stereo of an old '57 Chevy convertible and driven at high speeds through the neon-emblazoned streets of Las Vegas at 3 a.m. in the morning.
Casey Lee documents that he truly understands what it means to be a ‘lead guitarist’ on "These Are Times" with some outstanding playing, while Farren confesses to talking to himself on the acoustic number "Too Cold to Hold." The album then draws to a conclusion with "Heart BPM," a song that celebrates the uncertainty of youth and the beauty of life -- a sentiment that exudes from the album, an album that is accomplished, honest, and at times brilliant. But Fake Problems are yet to peak. It’s Great to Be Alive is a fine collection of songs that is worthy of praise, but it is undoubted that the best is most certainly still to come from these four boys from Naples, who are telling us that they are ready now -- ready to stand on their own two feet.