Despite everything going to hell in a handbasket in 2020 alt rock has had a banner year so far, which has perhaps even been spurned on to some degree by the tumultuous time and place that we all occupy. IDLES came out with an emphatic, high-testosterone, adrenaline packed LP that gave even the most timid people the energy of the Ultimate Warrior, with their album Ultra Mono. Meanwhile, Code Orange released Underneath which had enough atmosphere and intensity to score an experimental horror film. Most notably though, The Strokes came back sounding as fresh as they ever could with The New Abnormal. The album incorporated synth instrumentation, melodic influences from Pink Floyd to The Bee Gees, and enough lyrical strength to go up against almost any of Radiohead’s best albums. 2020 sucks, but it has a killer soundtrack.
Keeping that trend going is the debut EP, Documentaries, by British prog-rock quintet, The Long Faces. Despite having a scant few tracks leading up to the release of their EP, they have gathered and maintained a strong fanbase, with nearly 70,000 monthly Spotify listeners and more than two million total streams on their listed tracks. Finally, in this trying time, The Long Faces drop their first collection of songs with a 3 track EP. Honestly though, calling them tracks is too passive; this is a 3-banger EP.
Banger number one was originally teased to hype up the project, “Sail Away,” which is a track that sounds like The Smiths if Santana took over for Johnny Marr. The Smiths similarities only get stronger with the relatable lyrics and mopey singing from lead vocalist Tom Lane, whose morose baritone makes him a dead ringer for Morrisey. And hey, anyone that can have the same sound as Morrisey without the moral baggage of actually being Morrisey is always welcome in my book. The song ends perfectly as Lane wails out the song’s title, almost as if he’s drifting further from the listener, while the siren-like tones of bassist Kristina Rhodes join in as the song descends into a beautifully chaotic euphony, straight out of a Pink Floyd joint, leaving the listener wonderfully disoriented.
As seamlessly as “Sail Away” ends, so begins the EP’s title song, “Documentaries.” The track uses unnerving droning sounds before kicking into a relaxing bossa nova style bass line, like the listener had sailed away on a stormy night only to wash up ashore on Costa Del Sol from Final Fantasy VII. Those same guitar riffs that elevated the first banger sneak in between the verses to elevate this track as well. Lane shows some fun wordplay with the bridge cooing, “You shoot me. I’ll shoot you. And we can make documentaries too.” The shooting in this case referencing a camera and fixation, rather than a gun. He also goes on to adlib over the second chorus, drunkenly rambling while still attempting to honor the rhyme scheme, before giving up and going straight into scat. This playfulness fits perfectly with the song as it has much more of a jazz aesthetic. One could easily imagine a song like this going over well in the KGB bar’s Red Room, or getting under Adorno’s skin as he writes his next theory book.
The EP rounds itself out, with its final banger, “And Where Have You Gone, Mr. Wolf?” going in a shoegaze direction with its heavy reverb and distorted guitars that can put the listener into an introspective trance. Its final two minutes stand out in particular as Lane and Rhodes echo each other while the My Bloody Valentine-esque instrumentation backs them up, with enough feeback and distortion where you know exactly where their gaze is fixated.
While the EP is quick at three songs and thirteen minutes, you can’t help but feel excited to hear where they are headed next. Should The Long Faces be able to get more studio time in the post-pandemic world, fans of Morrisey, reverb, and cheekily written lyrics will have plenty to look forward to. The prospect of this quintet releasing a full length album is too tantalizing for the world to pass up, hopefully this EP is just catnip for more material on the way.