LIVE: Failure / Muskets @ Boston Music Room, London

By Glen Bushell

The fallout of the tragic events in Paris on November 13th shook up the music industry in more ways than imaginable. Many bands (understandably so) chose to cancel shows in the wake of what happened; while others were determined to carry on as planned. Failure were a part of the latter. Due to play their first performance in mainland Europe since 1993, as main support to Swedish hardcore band Refused, in Paris. However, their work permits were not arranged in time due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, and subsequently had to pull out of the show.

In fighting spirit, the LA trio did what they could to make the best out of a bad situation, and added a very intimate show at the Boston Music Room in London. This was welcome news to fans who were unable to get tickets to The Electric Ballroom, where Failure would be kicking off the remaining dates of the European tour with Refused, and served as the perfect warm-up for the band.

There has been a lot of buzz around tonight’s openers, Muskets. The Brighton band signed to Venn Records earlier this year, and released their excellent EP ‘Spin’. Their youthful exuberance, and energised performance certainly justifies the hype, even if at times they fall into the trap of sounding close to some of their American contemporaries. That aside, they channel a distinctive alt-rock/grunge vibe, without being nostalgic or dated. With a seemingly older audience than they may be accustomed to, they remain tight and confident, reaffirming the current strength of the UK scene.

Seeing Failure on a stage like this really is an absolute treat, but for a small room, their sound is gargantuan. Launching straight into ‘Hot Traveler’ – which is fast becoming one of the best set openers in recent memory, they waste no time in getting down to business. Every subtle nuance in Failure’s sound is tweaked to perfection. Other more recent tracks, such as ‘A.M Amnesia’ and ‘Atom City Queen’ sound just as robust as they do on their comeback album ‘The Heart Is a Monster’, which was released earlier this year.

In a bizarre twist, and perhaps one that is made to satisfy the die-hard faithful that have turned out this evening, the band eschew anymore newer material, and turn out every Failure classic imaginable. ‘Frogs’ and ‘Wet Gravity’ from the highly lauded ‘Magnified’ carry just as much weight as they did the first time you heard them. They even venture all the way back to their 1992 album ‘Comfort’, storming through ‘Macaque’ and ‘Something’ – proving that the chemistry between founding members Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards hasn’t faltered over the last two decades.

Unsurprisingly, it is the songs from their iconic album ‘Fantastic Planet’ that garner the biggest reaction. The thick guitars and driving bassline of ‘Smoking Umbrellas’ fill the room, before ‘Pillowhead’ gives drummer Kelli Scott a chance to show what he is made of. Precise, analytical, and methodical, he makes every beat and fill look effortless. Andrews’s vocal is as stirring as ever through ‘Dirty Blue Balloons’, with Edwards making great use of his guitar effects for ‘Another Space Song’ to make it gloriously textured. They end with any Failure fans dream encore; A serene take on ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me’, and the quintessential anthem ‘Stuck On You’, before closing out with the grandiose ‘Heliotropic’.

It may have taken seventeen years for people to catch on to Failure, and perhaps tonight’s show deserved a bigger stage, but the pleasure they seem to get from performing indicates they are going to be sticking around for quite some time. How permanent the return of Failure is remains to be seen at this point, but once again, they conquered London – showing us that there is still plenty of fuel left for the fire.