Cinnamon is falling from the skies! The sound of crunching leaves cannot distract the pulsating feeling of cider through my veins. Yes, it’s the best season in the world. Not everyone has a “fall” per se, but for those kids in the Midwest it’s a crispy celebration of the effervescent wind chill off the Great Lakes. It’s not smog, folks, but more of a distinct haze that hugs you with hydration and cleanses the senses with apples falling off trees and college football marching bands. The drum major has the high step from right to left across your periphery, meanwhile, your lambs wool sweater is actually clean, stripped, and basking for the flirtation of changing leaves.
When I think of the phrase Fall Classic, I think of one thing: Football. The taste of my boiled to mold mouthpiece as a kid in pee wee football, while my plastic pads would clink like tin cans running along a frosty tipped field, brittle blades screaming in terror, waiting in anticipation of the citrus chill of half time oranges. There was nothing more delicious than those oranges, man. To this day, I continually try to slice up oranges and recreate the magic, to no avail. Delicious? Yes. The same? No.
I guess it never is.
Fall Classic, a five-piece rock outfit from Chicago, has tapped into that magic orange spirit. Listening to their album Nerves feels like an episode of “Gather Around” as the curly bearded man continues to unveil new trees, bees, shrubberies and countless other Earthy delights with a paintbrush. The soothing whispery vocals lead you down a gravel road to a log cabin that manufactures strawberry pancakes and toasted almonds. It feels relaxing, but I also feel the need to chop some wood for the fire while wearing a puffy brown vest and bright flannel.
Many of the songs on Nerves work just like that. They begin understated and downright drowsy and pick their moment to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The percussion is precise, patient and at times echoes like sound beams ricocheting off many different brands of tree bark. Ping-pong-ping. Airy and delicious like spreading apple butter with a whisk.
I feel this album was done so well, I want to take a “no leaf unturned” approach to sifting through it. It’s not too cold, yet. Grab a Woodchuck Fall Cider, take a load off and I’ll break this MONSTER down song-by-song. I may just knit you a blanket too!
Song by Song Breakdown
1. I Built a Shell I
Classic Fall intro. It’s low-fi. Begins with a gentle guitar strum and a harmonizing “la-la-la” and remains eerily basic merging into the second movement.
2. I Built a Shell II
The bass really kicks in hard and the intro teaser was a success. The full sound comes together and you realize fully that, for real, a shell has been built. La-la-la. The tone has been set and you begin to fathom what you’re in fore—something special. The credits have been forecasted and the show is ready to begin.
Starts slow, with a basic quasi-blues guitar riff for about 40 seconds. The first thing vocal you hear is background vocals, and finally a plain-stated, “Drink up dear/you know that I need this/I’ll speak until I’m speechless/tonight.” It leads me to believe this album experience is going to be open, honest, ever-flowing and in dire need of a gut check. About half way through the song, I’m sensing strong hints of Low Anthem with the worldliness soul of TV on the Radio.
True to the namesake of this song, Hearth provides molten metal flooring giving a nice base to things to come. It’s a sexy, fiery-hot riff that eventually whimpers and croons, “oooooh, God, the things I do for you.” Then rollicks like a rubber boat in rapids through a big rock finish with swirling, frantic drumming and soaring vocals, adding a decrescendo to ice the wounds. It’s a tune that reminds me of the Head and the Heart, especially the use of background vocals.
5. A Sort of Satisfied
This song intros painfully slow and bluesy, like a Chicago version of Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker evening maintaining the PAIN. Adams is the master of making a song so slow, you want to hit fast forward, but you don’t, because the upcoming reward is immense. To the victor come the spoils. The song, true to my intro, builds into a fierce psychotic lick, chanting cryptically, “maybe I wasn’t enough for you/maybe love isn’t enough.” The background vocals almost seem snarky when hitting your ears with an, “ahhhhh” in a tone that says, “oh snap...no e-he-ee did-nnn-tt” I’m kinda-sorta in love with the diversity of the drumming throughout this song. They certainly explored the studio space.
This is the first song that begins urgently on the album. It’s pretty intense. Spitting alliteration with rheumatic ease, before delving into a psychedelic sphere flipping the song upside down with a fist in the air, “when the Earth turns ugly/I need a drug to take hold of me.” I think most of us know that feeling. The song continues and builds in the mold of a Pink Floyd with more thrashing guitars and evocative primitive percussion. It’s probably the most marketable song on the album.
7. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Speak
All the sudden you find yourself in a carnival. I’m enjoying this trend in music to transporting the listener to the Scream Zone. All I can picture is that creepy circa 1900’s smiling face with the greasy salesman hair laughing at me. Mixing evil carnival with psychedelic folk and a ska up chugging is a ride I can always find a few nickels for.
8. The Last Word a Man Wants to Use
What a lovely love sonnet this is. I’m fanatical about the tone used emoting “desperate for YOU-OOO-UUU.” Succinct, not overdone, but it conveys the desperation intended. Again, the off-the-cuff style of the lyrics to state things in a stoic, matter of fact manner makes me smile. GD-it man, I’m desperate for more songs like this. As a man of many maudlin moments, pining, sulking, celebrating that…crave. It eats you up in a wonderfully ambitious matter of fact manner.
This song EXPLODES off the page. This is a moment when you realize how fucking good this band is. I didn’t think they had this song in them, but it blows me away. My sailboat is in the air from the swirling wind. By far my favorite! The patience throughout the album erodes into this trial and tribulation rocker. The handclaps and thunderous drumming give the song real crick in my neck. It cycles and revolves around my headphones before tightening into a turrets wallop on the kit. It’s just a complete rock song through and through. Love, love, love.
Fear brings the tempo and excitement back down, with an echo-y blues groove. It’s simple and just what the doctor ordered to signal the falling action of the album. If “Brothers” was the charcoal lighter, “Fear” is the sound of the charcoals’ gray-ready-to-cook-ness. Hold your fist in the air soul brothers.
“So I dance and sing like a GD fool!” This song creates a real distant soul. The vocals are soulful and urgent, while the guitar feels like it’s a 100-yards away as other sights and sounds combine to fill the room. Clinking bells, tumbleweeds and the occasional loon stop by to give it an Earthy texture. This song makes me want to leave my apartment immediately and grab a beer. Alone. I say that in the most awesome way possible. Grab the black button up, it’s slimming.
12. No No No
The closer. Another painfully slow build. The piano and occasional clinking bells build into a falsetto crescendo with soul by the boatload. Like Stevie Wonder meeting the elegant key plucking of Norah Jones. It’s beautiful, it’s classy, but, it’s not going to cost you a lot of money. It’s right here. You can’t make sangria with a glass of wine and a few sliced lemons. Go to the store and get yourself some fruit. Show some class. Let the dinner party commence. Game on!
Fall Classics’ debut album “Nerves” was released April 17th.
Ryan C. Zerfas sure loves his superlatives. Fall is the freekin' best. He'll be tweeting all season spilling ciderific propoganda about loud music, football and everything else that is GOLDEN. Seriously.