Killed by the Bull - Failing Is Fun [12 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Killed by the Bull

Failing Is Fun [12 inch] (2009)


In 2006, Killed by the Bull released their sophomore album, The Princess Rides the Bull Into Holy Hell! EP. It was an extremely frustrating listen in that it combined punk rock, gothic and folk/country rock elements in a really interesting and unique way but the execution and songwriting fell just short of being something truly praiseworthy. Aside from a 7" in 2008, Failing Is Fun marks the band's first major work since 2006 and the time in between releases has proved to be quite valuable for the band and rewarding for the listener.

Although, Killed by the Bull comes from a strong New Jersey punk/hardcore background from bands like the Banner and the Judas Factor, their past work seemed to put a heavier emphasis on country punk and theatrical gothic motifs. Failing Is Fun presents a much more focused sound that shows a serious love of classic hardcore punk. Songs like the two-minute skate-ready blasts found in the title track and "I'll Never Tell" rip with a reckless abandon while still taking breaths to show off vocalist/guitarist Justin Fullam's impressive singing abilities. Whereas before Fullam would overextend his reach a bit into an unflattering sassiness in order to stress the off-kilter qualities of the music, here he is much more restrained, allowing the listener to enjoy the tones of his natural singing voice when it is required while still letting loose with a rapid-fire shouted delivery and occasional hardcore scream like on "Run Free…From the White Light."

KBTB may have gotten a slightly harder edge, but they haven't abandoned their rootsier side. "Amanda O'Dwyer" features twangy guitar parts and vocal melodies and a galloping drum beat over a classic tale of a shadowy dark lady. The rest of the album doesn't have as prominent country overtones, but subtly incorporate these elements into the overall fabric of Killed by the Bull's songwriting. The pleasant addition of surf guitar in "More Words from the Prophet" and the dream pop lullaby of "Let the Sky Glow" show that the band is always willing to incorporate new styles into what they do while still maintaining their own personality throughout.

It is always great to hear a band honing their craft and Killed by the Bull have given the listener a great document of that with each release and Failing Is Fun continues that tradition. Anyone that likes classic southern California hardcore punk, whether it be T.S.O.L. or early AFI, should really be able to sink into this and I encourage you to do so.