The latest chapter of the soundtrack to Justin Furstenfeld’s psychoanalysis was released earlier this week. It comes in the form of his band’s seventh album, Sway. It also marks Blue October’s 15th year in recorded music.
To their credit, the band has never created an album that’s easily dissect-able on one listen. It hasn’t changed on album number seven. First impressions are that this one is a heavier ‘groove,’ album than some in the past. The rhythm section of Jeremy Furstenfeld (drums) and Matt Novesky (bass), deserve extra credit here.
It’s also fair to say it’s less caustic than 2011’s Any Man in America. By no means does that mean it’s devoid of Justin’s jagged little pills – as noted on first single ‘Bleed Out,’ and on the hip-hop-meets-strings-tinged ‘Light You Up,’ on the album’s back end.
The almost adult-contemporary vibe of the album’s title track is a brilliant introduction to the album. Furstenfeld has found love again and is more sober this time in accepting it back into his life again. The song is at times U2, at times Duran Duran, at times Cure, at times Smashing Pumpkins – but all completely Blue October playing to its strengths.
The string-heavy ‘Angels in Everything,’ is a by-the-numbers radio-friendly track and will be mixed into the live shows immediately, I”m sure. I’m alternating between being nonplussed by the track vs. in awe that the band can still punch out tracks like these from a pop standpoint with such ease.
First single ‘Bleed Out,’ was written from Furstenfeld’s wife’s perspective – which lends some credibility to the vitriol in the track. I read a recent article that stated Justin fell back into addiction after recording and touring on Any Man in America because his mission statement on that album – trying to level the playing field in his divorce and child custody battles – did not produce the results he’d hoped for. ‘Bleed Out,’ is classic Blue October and is a kick in the pants to get back on track in life as enforced by those closest to you.
Two of my favorite tracks on the album follow – the album’s longest track clocking in at just under seven minutes – is ‘Debris.’ It floats in on an almost Sade like bass line and tone. It’s a love song that takes a close look at someone who knows you through and through. Brant Coulte’s guitar histrionics begin at about 4:27 in and reminisce a bit at 4:47 with The Cure’s ‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,’ with dueling G’N’R-like strings adding to the crescendo before reverting back to the tracks rhythm segment to fade out. The track ‘Fear,’ follows and when it kicks in at full throttle it’s a beautiful track. It even includes some piano that recalls Moby. The lyrics ‘Fear/in itself/will use you up/and break you down/like you were never enough/I used to fall/now I get back up,’ should motivate anyone when paired against this musical backdrop.
‘The Things We Don’t Know About,’ is pretty stock for the band but fits in well with this collection of songs.
‘Hard Candy,’ and ‘Put It In,’ are fun, tongue-in-cheek rockers that pick up the tempo for a few minutes each. The former features the lines ‘I used to dress like a hooker/but never seemed to hook anyone…I use to think I was a savior/but never seemed to save anyone.’ All in all though, the track runs about 45 seconds to a minute too long. The latter track is more a reflection on deciding to go full throttle in your commitment to sobriety. It serves as a reminder that as individuals we’re responsible for how lucid we want our present selves to be.
I don’t care for the hip-hop lyrical presentation Justin uses on ‘Light You Up,’ but that’s more of a personal preference. He employs it to less annoying degree on the following track ‘Things We Do At Night,’ perhaps due to the harder rock edge musically.
‘Not Broken Anymore,’ is kind of like the closing statement for the album. A straight forward piano-driven tune where Furstenfeld declares he’s going to stop pretending and start getting real. So….he’s going to be on MTV’s The Real World? Not quite…but I’m comfortable is saying he’s not going to end up like Puck.