Every week HEADWARMER. will go in search of the forgotten classics. Albums that sniffed at the success they deserved before disappearing beneath mounds of mainstream mediocrity. This week, Nick DeLibero trawls the archives for an act often classed as Emo, but ultimately proved to be so much more.
5. FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER – ‘How To Start A Fire’
(TOOTH & NAIL, 2003)
Line up changes can either be a blessing or a curse for musicians but to fans, it can be valued as heartbreak and agony. The year 2001 ended an era for Florida band Further Seems Forever, as beloved vocalist Chris Carrabba left to pursue his colossal solo act Dashboard Confessional. This would soon become a common novelty for FSF, as each studio release would feature a new singer with a completely different deliverance. It would not be until 2012 when Carrabba would finally return to the band; making emo history as the only singer to appear on multiple albums.
As the screenplay of the band looked to be coming to a tragic end, enter 19-year-old Jason Gleason from stage left. The band’s 2003 album How To Start A Fire was the only material to feature Gleason, but it was a prevailing statement which no loyal fan was expecting. The music scene was first introduced to Gleason during the 2001 video for ‘Snowbirds and Townies’ while Carrabba was officially awol. Though hype revolved around Gleason, FSF were now down by two original members. Guitarist Nick Dominguez soon left to form a record label, and the heat was on to get the band on track again. “Let’s set this city ablaze,” belts Gleason as the recorded clicks of a lighter sparks the first track. Just 45 seconds in, HTSAF immediately shows a dimmer and moodier tone than its precursors.
While Carrabba often hit high pitched notes well, Gleason offered a more earth shattering and alarming vocal range. While ‘Snowbirds’ was a heartfelt break up song about summer flings, the album’s single ‘The Sound’ presented more abstract and poetic lyrics, ripping up the chapters of Carrabba’s teachings. The third track ‘Blank Page Empire’ resembles Braid-type choruses over Sunny Day Real Estate verses, a perfect match for emo enthusiasts. Gleason’s voice soars over airy guitar riffs, which mimics more of a jazz motif than rock. Perhaps the most remarkable factor of the album is the dueling guitar parts, which never once leave listeners bored. ‘Insincerity as an Art Form’ and ‘Pride War,’ wield guitar riffs that tell a story, and Gleason’s vocals are the graceful author to the saga’s narrative structure.
The most underrated element of the entire record is the eclectic drumming of Steve Kleisath. What makes him beyond talented is his ability to cross genres and still be relevant. Most notably appearing in the hardcore band Shai Hulud, Kleisath’s style is often imitated, but never mastered. Such drumming transitions can be heard on ‘The Deep’ and ‘I Am,’ as a soft jazz groove patters over chiming guitars. In 2013 a decade after the initial release, HTSAF remains one of the first ’emo’ albums to feature the superstar vocal capacity equivalent to a major arena rock band. FSF challenged the rotating customs of emo, lighting a fervent fire that to this day, will never cease.