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Farewell Continental, otherwise known as one of the worst kept secrets in shoegaze music. As a gimmick to hide their identities, they used pseudonyms; not any old aliases would do, though – no – they named themselves after Harrison Ford film characters. It was a genius move, right? Though once the smoke and mirrors cleared, they lifted the lid on what we already knew. Justin Pierre, best known for his work with Motion City Soundtrack, was a member, along with relative unknowns Kari Gray, Thomas Rehbein, Jim Adolphson and Josh McKay.
Justin Pierre fronts the group, as expected, but doesn’t handle vocal duties alone. Kari Gray, who also sits her pretty self down at the keyboard, co-fronts the group in that aspect. Their voices couldn’t be at further ends of the spectrum, but bizarrely they often make it work, though sometimes they simply don’t. The shoegaze indie-pop servings that Farewell Continental pen call to mind some older Jimmy Eat World work which, to me, isn’t at all a bad thing – though Pierre is a far cry from Jim Adkins in style.
‘¡Hey, Hey Pioneers!’ is a mixed bag from start to finish, lacking any kind of consistency as a string of good tracks can suddenly go bad. I want to dig this album so badly, because I can’t help but admire the forced chemistry of the vocalists, but I think lapses in songwriting prowess tends to let the record down a bit too often. Though, for a debut record, Farewell Continental have a great sound, which will hopefully be a foundation to build upon. I must praise the production on ‘Pioneers’, it’s a crisp sounding record – hard to believe it is a first effort.
If I have one minor gripe of the album, aside from consistency, it’d probably be the length. With a hefty fourteen tracks, to clock in at less than forty minutes just seems to be underachieving. “Seasoned Veterans” kicks the record off to a cracking start, albeit a short one. It’s got a simple, easy to sing-along to chorus which is essential for a genre like this; it helps separate the wheat from the chaff. “Capybara” follows suit, with the trade-off vocals in the verse a feature, though it does highlight the obvious contrast between Pierre and Gray.
“Who’s The Boss?” is a combo-breaker track, despite having a hilarious title – got to love nerdy references to poor 80s television. It’s just fortunate the track is well under two minutes in length, so it’s short but lacks the sweetness to appropriately fulfil that idiom.
“A Story From the Bottom of the Sea” begins with promise, but slowly unravels into a messy, unattractive song, with thanks to the peculiar vocal approach Pierre adopts in the second half of the track. “Immolated” is a better attempt, as the hump track restores a semblance of quality to the record with another corking chorus, even if it is lyrically sub-standard. “New Tile Floor” is an admirable pop song, but it is an example of the shared vocal duties not working so well – I actually sighed when Gray took over in the first verse.
The last handful of tracks is a spread of the good and bad. “I Feel Everything (Can You Feel It As Well)” is the best of the closing songs, because I think it captures a lot of the group’s strengths within a couple of short minutes. Meaty power chords, pop beats, Pierre, and primarily utilizing Gray as a back-up vocalist or harmonist. All respect to her, but I’m not sure her voice has the “power” to carry a lead role.
‘¡Hey, Hey Pioneers!’ isn’t a stellar record, by any means. As a debut, it is respectable – though given Pierre is a seasoned campaigner, I think it’s fair to have expected a bit more. It’s hard to determine whether for him this is a serious gig, or a distraction from his main work. If the former, I hope over time they can develop on their strengths and buff their weaknesses. If they can do this, they’re capable of making some decent pop rock; as evidenced by a few precious nuggets on this record.
1. Seasoned Veterans
3. Who’s the Boss?
4. The Greatest Of All-Time (How You Feelin’ Now?)
5. Dagger, Dagger: Terror, Terror
6. A Story From The Bottom Of The Sea
8. New Tile Floor
9. Radio, Radio: Are You Getting This?
10. The Explorer Settles Down
11. Mad Operator
12. I Feel Everything (Can You Feel It As Well?)
13. The Reflecting Skin
14. Tiger Claw