Album Review: The Figgs’ “Chemical Shake”

NEW YORK – Being a mainstay in the music business is no small feat, yet that is what The Figgs have seemingly done, crafting their songs in such a way that has audiences continuing to come back for more. This is certainly the case with the alternative rock band’s newest release, Chemical Shake, which came out on May 6th. Never pigeonholing themselves into any one particular territory, genre-wise, this album displays the expert songwriting abilities within the band, that of which has only grown stronger throughout their nearly four-decade career. Incorporating elements of pop, rock, alternative, and more, this is truly one gem of an album.

Opening with “Hot Vice,” a song featuring a compelling synthesizer pad and melody layered intro, that is soon followed by the full band coming in, listeners can quickly get a sense of what is to come. The doubling of the melody in different registers is a great effect for this track, and is one the band employs often throughout the album. Grooving rock with a hint of a circus-sounding vibe; everything is extremely tight and extremely enjoyable to hear. While the arrangement of a song is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, sometimes it can be effective to also incorporate somewhat humorous lyrics into a song. This is the case with the following two tracks, “Cataracts,” and “I Lied to the Doctor,” the latter of which contains the lyric, “I lied to the undertaker as I laid in his hearse.” The way in which this line is delivered so matter-of-factly makes this listener chuckle.

Another aspect of the album I particularly enjoy are the drum sounds layered throughout. At times, it sounds like a nice blend of acoustic and electronic drum patterns. For an example of this well-crafted effect, those can put on “Sunset Fait Accompli,” track four. Aside from the drum sounds, the eerie minor tonality really adds to the overall feeling of this song. For this author, the entire piece exudes steampunk imagery set against an evening sky. The outro, while indeed long, never feels forced or overdone. Those looking for other examples of this type of drum effect can find just that on “Night Flight,” and “Time Travel (Wind / Unravel),” tracks seven and eight, respectively. The synthesizer and keyboard parts that are sprinkled throughout the record also make for very nice additions to the songs’ arrangements.

This is especially true in “Reel Keaper,” track six, and “Why We Gotta Do It Like This,” track nine. In the former example, the synth solo that occurs in the latter half of the song really help tie the piece together. It makes an already enjoyable piece that is solidified by a slamming rhythm section (you can hear the strings slapping into the guitar’s pickups), even more fun. For “Why We Gotta Do It Like This,” a song dripping with nostalgic tones of the beginning of the 2000’s, the incredibly bouncy tune is driven by the rapidly pulsing synthesizers. The repetitious nature of the melody and song structure make it get stuck in your head easily. Near the end of the song, the band breaks away to let the synth ring out, before the vocals and the band re-enter. Breaking up the monotony of the song quite nicely, it’s a good demonstration for how much justice the synth is serving in the album.  

While the band is hard to pin down as far as where one can put them, sonically speaking, the last three tracks, “Back in ’78,” “The Essex Princess,” and “Jump This Jive,” are perhaps the most straightforward rock and roll tunes of this collection. Not only are the guitar tones terrific in “Back in ’78,” but the guitar solo performed in this song is great. Ending the song as it began with a brief guitar interlude is just more evidence of the band’s songwriting ability; ending the song this way instills a sense of familiarity. While there isn’t much left to remark on in the way of “The Essex Princess,” “Jump This Jive” is such a playful tune with amazing energy. It serves as the album’s closer quite well!

Often times, it’s a Herculean task to create original art that doesn’t sound similar to other acts or bands, but The Figgs have done and continue to do so. With their newest release, Chemical Shake, the band has created something extremely enjoyable and special. Fans of indie-rock, alternative, and pop rock are sure to hear something that tickles their fancy. Go check out the album for yourself by clicking here.

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