It's been a dozen years since Far dropped Water & Solutions to a largely apathetic major label audience hungry for goatee metal-rap and prepubescent pop-punk. The band was unjustly lumped in with that lot and, as such, failed to really find an audience to appreciate their brand of heartfelt-but-heavy post-hardcore. It was no surprise that they went inactive; what else could they have done? It wasn't their fault; they were victims of a machine much, much larger and more powerful than they.
The guys in Far haven't stopped creating, however; Jonah Matranga kept busy as onelinedrawing, New End Original, under his own name and even had a brief second bout on a major label with Gratitude; guitarist/chief songwriter Shaun Lopez formed the Revolution Smile, released a couple of moderately successful albums and toured a bunch. The guys kept in touch, but anything new from Far seemed a remote possibility.
Fast-forward to 2008, and in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Water & Solutions, Far reunited for a couple of shows and a UK tour. The band also recorded a cover of Ginuwine's 1996 hit "Pony," and because a market still exists for bad, ironic cover songs, the track became a hit. To think that we have an aging R&B singer to thank for Far's comeback album, At Night We Live. Weird.
The first and most noticeable aspect of this record is its production, which is stadium-ready. I know Vagrant's a fairly prominent indie label, but a lot of major label releases don't sound this crisp. Every drum click, vocal inflection and dreamy guitar sound is crystal clear on the album's opening (and title) track.
"Deafening" is ANWL's first single and it's easy to see why: The massive guitars and simple, anthemic chorus just scream "active rock radio," and though it's a bit derivative as a whole, it mostly accomplishes what it's going for; the hot lixxx reel in the casual listener, and then Far hits them with more nuanced, poppier fare like this album's middle of the lineup: "If You Cared Enough," "When I Could See" and "Give Me a Reason." Jimmy Eat World does the same thing. Go ahead, say they don't. Regardless, these choruses are great.
It ain't all puppies and rainbows, though. Far revisits some of that aggression on "Dear Enemy" with a climatic breakdown that ought to at least cause a few to increase the volume on their earbuds. Same for "Fight Song #16,233,241," where Matranga seamlessly alternates between strong, clean vocals and piercing screams.
The band's uncanny ability to create interesting tones anchored in a sense of uneasiness remains evident here with "Burns," which is the closest thing here to being a "Mother Mary" clone. "Are You Sure?" has the best chorus the band has ever written; it's so damn simple yet it molds with the verses like a glove and its infectiousness is undeniable.
Far closes ANWL with "The Ghost That Kept on Haunting," a near-eight-minute opus that sort of amalgamates all of the hills and valleys experienced in the previous 10 tracks: the atmospheric, distant tones; huge low-end choruses; pounding drums; an eclectic and impressive vocal performance from Mantranga--it's all here, and though the aforementioned "Pony" cover is tacked onto the end of this album (for reasons purely financial, no doubt), it's obvious that "Ghost" was meant to close ANWL, so it's being acknowledged as such here.
So, while it's hard to say whether or not At Night We Live is better than Water & Solutions, it could very well be regarded as such when given the same amount of time to age and gain a following as that album has. Ask again in 2022. Regardless, it's a sprawling rock record that likely won't be duplicated by anyone anytime soon.