Fair to Midland


The Carbon Copy Silver Lining

Fair to Midland - The Carbon Copy Silver Lining ©2002 Self-Released
1. Gaining One
2. As I Was Travelling...
3. Stiffback
4. Informative Timeline
5. An Occurance During The Restoration Process
6. -The Beltway-
7. My Mentor
8. Stale Penny (Miracle Grow)
9. Pen-_-.
10. Beto II
11. With This Easel.
12. See, Saw
13. ..(I)..

I would imagine that if I heard Fair to Midland’s debut album prior to Inter.Funda.Stifle I would deign to write off the band permanently with nary a backward glance. Rather embarrassing considering the very high quality of its two successors, The Carbon Copy Silver Lining showed potential while suffering from many potentially crippling problems that the band would fortunately correct in a couple years’ time. For starters, the production on the album is weak, with under-mixed drums and one of the weakest guitar tones this side of Graveland. Secondly, Darroh Sudderth’s vocals are all over the place, and not even in a remotely good way. At this point in the band’s still very young existence, Sudderth clearly had no sense of pitch or really any idea as to how to construct a compelling vocal melody. On top of that, he falls into some awful Scott Stapp-ish warbling on occasion. As we all know, Scott Stapp is perhaps THE worst singer in the history of rock music, or perhaps even history itself. Sort of foreshadowing what would be a trademark of Inter.Funda.Stifle, Sudderth’s vocals are often multi-tracked on top of each other, but with the non-existent mixing and mastering plus his distinct lack of ability, they just sounded awkward. Thirdly, the songwriting wasn’t up to snuff and the band sounded like a lame early 90s college rock band crossed with early Dredg. Still, “Informative Timeline” and “My Mentor” provide some nice exotic touches on top of an otherwise paltry mixture of SOAD-ish modern rock and chugga chugga alt rock riffs.

I suppose all bands have to start somewhere. I will admit to The Carbon Copy Silver Lining being quite a sensory shock in light of Fair to Midland’s subsequent efforts and that in spite of everything there are hints of where they would go in the future, however slight they may be. Chalk it up to youthful enthusiasm, if anything.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2007

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Inter.funda.stifle

Fair to Midland - Inter.funda.stifle ©2004 Self-Released
1. Preambles In 3rd Person
2. Dance Of The Manatee
3. Vice Versa
4. Ciperion
5. A Seafarer’s Knot
6. Orphan Anthem ‘86
7. Inter.mission
8. Granny Niblo
9. The Walls Of Jericho
10. Abigail
11. Timbuktu
12. Kyla Cries Cologne
13. Upgrade^Brigade
14. When The Bough Breaks
15. Quince

Fair to Midland, a relatively young band hailing from, of all places, Sulphur Springs, Texas, offers a brand of modern/alternative rock in the mold of Chevelle, 40 Seconds to Mars, Incubus, Deftones, and other artists who would otherwise have absolutely no place on a reputable music review site. The differences between Fair to Midland and the aforementioned is a profoundly good sense of lush atmosphere, a truly odd vocalist who moves above mere Mike Patton-worship, and a good sense of journey and continuity that is normally found on the best progressive rock albums. The result is a unique sound that is redolent of other artists but difficult to actually pinpoint. I suppose Dredg would be a good comparison for all the same reasons.

The production, a bit squashed, muffled, and buried, actually does a lot to serve the turbulent atmosphere of inter.funda.stifle. In spite of this, the recording is dense and layered, with Matt Langley’s swirling keyboards and samples underpinning Cliff Campbell’s standard, textured-but-heavy-aggro guitar playing (one might have asked for a better, thicker guitar tone, however) and the almost tribal-sounding contribution of its rhythm section (reminiscent of a certain Mike Bordin and Billy Gould, from a certain influential band). The band’s not-so-secret weapon, however, is vocalist Andrew “Darrow” Sudderth. The guy, quite frankly, sounds like Michael Jackson with Tourrette’s. His youthful tenor is diversified into all assortments of odd whispers, roars, cries, croons, and a truly bizarre sheep’s bleat that pops up from time to time. Some of this is layered to create a harmonious wall of sound, which does nothing but add to the lush atmospherics of the recording. His performance is a bit much to take in after just one listen, but his presence is what arguably gives the band its identity.

The whole album is one that needs to be listened to all the way through as it moves like one big, long song. With their recent signing to Serj Tankian’s Serjical Strike records and an upcoming major label full-length, FTM seems poised for the big time. Let us hope they maintain releasing excellent music such as this little album.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2007

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Fables Of A Mayfly: What I Tell You 3 Times Is True

Fair to Midland - Fables Of A Mayfly: What I Tell You 3 Times Is True ©2007 Serjikal Strike Records
1. (Tibet) Dance Of The Manatee
2. Kyla Kries Cologne (and Pre Vice Versa)
3. Vice-Versa
4. The Wife, The Kids, And The White Picket Fence
5. April Fools And Eggman (and Ciperion)
6. A Seafarer’s Knot
7. A Wolf Descends Upon The Spanish Sahara
8. Walls Of Jericho
9. Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes
10. Upgrade^Brigade (and When The Bough Breaks)
11. Saw When (and Ozymandias)

2004’s Inter.Funda.Stifle was one of the biggest and best surprises to come my way in quite some time, so naturally my anticipation for Fair to Midland’s major label debut (Serjical Strike is run by none other than System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian) was quite high. On top of that, an undercurrent of worry as to whether or not FTM would be able to maintain its artistic integrity in the face of the mainstream music-buying public was prevalent. While I am not without my criticisms, I can say without fear of contradiction that Fables from a Mayfly is a worthy major-label debut for a band that is well-deserving of more widespread fame and praise.

First of all, the bad: as opposed to releasing an entirely new album consisting of all new material, FTM chose to rerecord six of the songs from Inter.funda.Stifle for Fables from a Mayfly. While it is good to hear a decent, thicker guitar tone for a change as well as improved sound quality across the boards, these rerecorded versions lack the potent, dense, and turbulent atmosphere of the original versions. This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, as the songs have taken on a more aged, mature, and, dare I say, ethereal quality. They just lack the same sense of urgency. On top of that, Darroh Sudderth’s vocal ADD-isms have been toned down considerably. One would have figured he would have been well on his way to becoming the male Kate Bush, but he has been stopped short of his ambitions with this album. While they have not been totally discarded, the densely layered vocal choruses have been trimmed, as well. On the bright side, he makes up for it with a vocal performance that is, on a whole, more assured, impassioned, restrained, and mature, and his performances on the newer tracks (namely “The Wife, the Kids, and the White Picket Fence”, “A Wolf Descends Upon the Spanish Sahara” and “Tall Tales Taste like Sour Grapes”) are nothing short of show-stopping. In fact, all of the new tracks show the band gaining new confidence as songwriters, once again redolent of a few artists, but hard to pinpoint exactly whom.

Fair to Midland seems to have traded in the more despairing and turbulent atmosphere of their previous album for a gentler, more other-worldly one this time around. I see this as a sure sign of artistic growth. I cannot help but wonder why over half the tracks on this album are ones that most rabid FTM fans have already heard, but I think it is a good sign that Fables from a Mayfly has been receiving nearly daily play from me since receiving it.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 06/2007

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