(feat. track – “I’m Giving Up On U2 [live at Shea Stadium]” [spotify link to studio recording])
I’ve been a fan of Chris Farren’s main gig, Fake Problems, for quite some time. Indeed, I would venture that most of the band’s fans are long-timers, due to the fact that they haven’t managed to release anything since 2010, when a nasty label situation basically buried that year’s Real Ghosts Caught On Tape long before its expiration date. But the ensuing years have clearly been productive ones; while Farren kept himself publicly busy doing whatever it is that a Punk Celebrity does (apparently making t-shirts and talking about Lost?), he was also writing a batch of seriously impressive songs. Farren re-emerged into the musical world this year with the surprise release of two EPs by Antarctigo Vespucci, a partnership with Jeff Rosenstock*, and it’s not a stretch to call them his best work to date.
Soulmate Stuff combines the the understated empathy of the Weakerthans, the raucous synth-party vibes of the Rentals and the sputtering brio of 90’s Alt Nation flameouts like Superdrag’s “Sucked Out,” Tripping Daisy’s “I Got A Girl” and Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” – awesomely copacetic source material that makes for a little marvel of a listen when splooshed together. Farren takes lead vocals through most of the EP; the ease in which he slides from nervous nebbish to Springsteenian font and back gives the album an emotional arc that never feels forced. Alternately, I’m So Tethered hones in on the band’s more upbeat side, four tracks that bounce from “go;” the differing approaches each feel wonderful in their own way.
The duo back up the exceptional batch of songs with near-perfect production and arrangement choices. The handclaps, squawking synths and fat, fuzzy single-string guitar leads that imbue Soulmate Stuff with verve all feel natural – almost inevitable – at the places they’re found; Tethered introduces saxophones to the sonic party, and closes with a jaunty number full of barely-disguised synth presets (“Come to Brazil”) that feels like kin with Vampire Weekend’s “Unbelievers.” The grand impression you’re left with is something akin to hearing Farren and Rosenstock flit away an afternoon in a sonic playground, having the time of their lives – the childlike joy and mischief aren’t just palpable, they’re the very essence of Antarctigo Vespucci.
I don’t know when we’ll get new Fake Problems material. Farren is promising that it will be soon, or at least as soon as the band finds a partner that makes sense. I won’t hold my breath on that prediction – mostly because I no longer feel like I have to. If Antarctigo Vespucci becomes priority #1, well, I would have no problem with that; frankly it’s hard to imagine Fake Problems doing anything better (and that’s no dis to them). Antarctigo Vespucci’s debut EPs are pretty much everything I want from music.
[The streaming clip up top is from the group’s first live performance, at Shea Stadium (the DIY Brooklyn venue, not the no-longer-extant edifice in Queens.) I had the privilege of being in attendance, and the show was as fun as it sounds.]
*I never really did get into Bomb The Music Industry!, the longtime project that Rosenstock packed in in 2013, but perhaps that’s something I need to go back and revisit now.