LIVE: Failure @ The Garage, London

By Glen Bushell


Nowadays it seems that more often than not, there are so many bands that were under appreciated in their time seeing a renewed interest in their work from fans and peers alike. Of course one of the biggest has been Los Angeles trio Failure, who were arguably the underdog band of the 90’s. They put out three records, and their 1996 swan song ‘Fantastic Planet’ is highly regarded as one of the quintessential alternative rock albums of the era.

The band made a surprise return to the live arena last year, and have been playing shows since. They have even found the inspiration to write another full-length, in the shape of the impending ‘The Heart Is a Monster’ that is due for release next month. So tonight at the Garage in Highbury, Failure find themselves back in the UK for their first show on our fair isle in over 20 years, and unsurprisingly, it was absolutely worth the wait.

By rights, tonight show should really be at a far bigger venue than the modestly sized Garage in North London, but considering how big some of the venues that Failure can pack out stateside, the faithful in attendance could be considered incredibly lucky to be seeing the band in a more intimate setting. As the lights go down, a projection screen at the back of the stage shows an amalgamation of footage from Bond classic ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Ren and Stimpy’s Space Madness’ and of course French movie ‘Fantastic Planet’, building anticipation for tonight’s show.

When Failure finally emerge and launch into new song ‘Hot Traveler’ they are greeted by a thunderous applause. The sound in the Garage is always near perfect but tonight Failure sound nothing short of monolithic. ‘Frogs’ and ‘Another Space Song’ shake the Garage to its foundation, with Ken Andrews vocal sounding as note perfect as it did in the 90’s. Informing the crowd that they only know how to play three new songs live from their forthcoming new record, the band treat us to ‘Counterfeit Sky’, a future anthem that shows they have certainly not lost their touch when it comes to writing the perfect rock song.

Of course it is the songs from ‘Fantastic Planet’ that draw huge sing-along’s from the audience. ‘Saturday Saviour’ and ‘Pillowhead’ are still as timeless, and it is mesmerising watching drummer Kelli Scott playing like the analytical machine he is through these classic tracks. The technical ability that Failure possess to create such a domineering sound reaches it’s apex during ‘Stuck on You’ with Greg Edwards manipulating both his bass and synth’s, which if you closed your eyes for just a moment, you would think you were listening to a studio recording.

The most endearing thing about Failure’s performance is the look of enjoyment on the faces of the members. There is no bravado, not elaborate stage show, and unlike some reunion tours or shows where the bands just look like they are on stage for nothing more than a payday, Failure just look like three friends playing songs that they love. There is no rush for them to leave the stage either as they air another new track in the shape of ‘Mulholland Drive’, before closing out with the 6-minute epic ‘Heliotropic’.

Nobody is stupid enough to leave though, as we all knew Failure had more to come, and they emerge after a brief reprieve to run through the whimsical, and ballad-esque ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me’, in which Andrews barely has to sing a word thanks to the participation of the audience. They finish off with a colossal rendition of ‘Smoking Umbrellas’, and the spine-tingling ‘Daylight’, to conclude a triumphant return to the UK for the space rock pioneers.

There’s no denying that Failure have essentially been able to pick up right where they left off in the 90’s, and are finally getting the credit that they deserve. With all of their shows being as universally acclaimed as tonight’s, and the tracks aired from ‘The Heart Is a Monster’ bearing the same relevance as anything that came before them, it is a pleasure to have Failure back once again.