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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bleach -- Farewell Old Friends


Let's get topical. No one really breaks up anymore. Just this year we've seen veteran after veteran come back from the dead. Five Iron Frenzy. Further Seems Forever. Earlier this year I got to witness a band live that I thought I would never see because I missed out eleven years ago, and then they "broke up." Breaking up just doesn't serve a purpose anymore in the current musical landscape. Things aren't anything like ten years ago. Unless your key members DIE, you might as well just say you are going on indefinite hiatus. When you can make an album in your basement, completely funded by your fans, what's the point in permanently disbanding?
Bleach announced their imminent demise in 2003, performed a "final show" the next year, and released their "swan song," Farewell Old Friends, in 2005. Bleach sound exhausted and sentimental on Farewell, but if they could have seen they would be back barely half a decade later, maybe they would have had a bit more energy on this album.
I complained about Bleach not exploiting their more experimental tendencies on my review of their album previous to this, Astronomy. They rectify that here. They even take a shot at a ten-minute song, and it is pretty good, even re-fashioning elements from an older song to great effect. The songwriting is pretty good throughout, but the problem is that the rowdiness present on their previous two Tooth and Nail albums is largely missing. Most of the songs are unfortunately mid-tempo, and the attitude throughout is definitely that of a band sad about saying goodbye. Plenty of these songs are good, but the album is really bogged down in the middle by them. A few more uptempo tracks sprinkled in would have worked wonders for the pacing. The album's best track, and one of the best songs Bleach have recorded, period, is "Good As Gold."
Check it out for a taste of what Bleach could do by this point in their career:

"Good as Gold" is fun, faced paced, but still shows more maturity than any of the uptempo songs in their back catalogue. At the end, they had all the elements to put together a truly great album, but they seemed so focused on their own demise that they missed the opportunity. And matter! Everything old is new again, and Bleach is back. They have the tools, experience, and momentum to this time seize the opportunity and make their best album yet. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

2005 Tooth & Nail
1. Write It Down 3:09
2. Clear the Air 4:09
3. Gonna Take Some Time 4:44
4. Took It by the Hand 3:36
5. Condition 3:37
6. To the Top 4:07
7. Sufficient 10:14
8. Weight of It All 2:50
9. Good as Gold 4:24
10. Farewell Old Friends 11:49

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