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Entries in Indie Rock (2)

REVIEW - Fall Classic - Man/Other Beasts

Fall Classic had so much fun with their debut, Nerves, they’ve decided to return just a smidge beyond the calendar year for a wildly animalist follow up, Man/Other Beasts. Though released in April, I didn’t get my hands on Nerves until the apex of the fall season, and decidedly, wrote an overtly thematic review AS FOLLOWS. It came a bit of a surprise to me to receive a new album so soon, in that seasonal mindset, seemingly a tad early. Can you imagine if football season just decided to start mid-Summer, instead of waiting all the way until September?

People would lose their respective shit!

Man/Other Beasts deserves that kind of overwhelming pandemonium. What!? Another Fall Classic album? It’s too soon? Is it too soon? It’s been over a year? What about the sophomore slump? If they have the material, they should truck on, right? What more could one want from a young band. Take that honeymoon creativity…to the moon?

I think that’s what we have here.

The sexy, basking in the wilderness’ visceral glow, follow up to Nerves really builds off the kinetic energy of the Chicago quartets debut. Their sound seems whittled, concise and battle tested—sharp enough to kill. Schematically, the album breaks itself into it’s own double-edge sword, with each singer, Ryan Jeffrey and Andrew Fatato, taking half an album, with an outro to the albums self-proclaimed climax (“we’ll never survive on the fox’s share…”) thriving as the continental divide.

The divide works, as the singers have their own vibe and, of course, competing concurrent strengths, thinking well of Outkast’s Speakboxx/The Love Below’s dueling banjos. The first four songs feature Jeffrey’s kind of worldly sounding, raspy, sultry, vocals of cascading patience. Meanwhile tracks six through nine, feature Fatato’s more slicing with serrated sleekness crooning, in the vein of Blind Faith era Steve Winwood. His vocals are obviously not that high, but following the throaty ease of Jeffrey’s delivery, his songs tend to soar like they are pouncing their way out of the speakers, like salmon spawning downstream.

Much like its predecessor, Man/Other Beasts seems to stick with a theme and roll on through the safari. There is a palpable, animalistic rawness through all the songs, titles, themes and cover art that secludes the listening experience to a disclosed Fall Classic island. A portal you’re going to enjoy, because you’ve been transported away from all the trials and tribulations of modern life. Now, all you have to do is make some weapons for hunting, build a fire and construct shelter for the evening!?

This tone is set with the albums opening track, “Bones and Blood,” a song that harmonizes the self-aggrandizing image of cutting holes in the sun, while waxing the realist propaganda that we, as humans, are just bones and blood. It’s simple, but a prophetic tune that spins the flywheel enough to turnover the engine. At the very least, one finds their feet pattering against the wet sand pictured on the albums’ cover art. You might even be able to hear an Anthony Kiedis mirage caroling about how you don’t form in the wet sand, but he does. Man/Other Beasts sure as shit does. Well, It doesn’t matter, when you have a head that is half fox, half lion—the curtain on your deserted beach safari stage has risen, friends. 

The first single, and wedged anchor of the album, “The Lion” is the quintessential Fall Classic song. It opens sardonically, with a jabbing, “don’t dig your spade in me/shake the hope that I will be your foundation” before wallowing, “…and I will let you down/dooooooooown/I will let you down.” It has a troubling drum line, like there is a trial in the wild, and there is rope and a fire—somebody is going to roast, tonight!? The patience of the song is the patent of Fall Classic. About three-and-a-half minutes into the song, the chanting, yet marketable, “we’ll never survive on the fox’s share” presents itself, repeats itself, trademarks itself and then crescendos climatically on the strength of Christopher Grandberry’s whirlwind percussion. One might find themselves reflecting on the incredible journey they just took. It then forays further into an outro to the song titled simply, “/” the albums pivot point, and there is a beautiful acapella sequence, harmonizing Jeffrey’s fox’s share hook, with an undisclosed female vocal and eventually a third and maybe fourth vocal sequence. It’s a majestic blend signaling intermission.

My favorite song on the album is the following song, “Firebreaks” as it’s echoing guitars strike a tone with me, as the beat swirls around me like feverish strobe lighting, and the chord progression thumps in threes with tribal confidence, like many songs on the White Stripes album Icky Thump. Pow-pow-pow…rest…pow-pow-pow. Throughout the vocals are cutting and soulful, delivering a clean melody with very relatable lyrics to any victim of unrequited love. I almost want to cry as Fatato repeats, whines, repeats, “she’s never not alone/never, never not alone/never not alone/” before howling, “I’m giving you up!!!!” I love that lyrical pairing of taking time and giving you up, together, to me, signifies a great ying-yang concept as they inherently call for different actions. That’s really the way my mind works when I’ve been vanquished by passion and unrequited love. There’s that internal struggle where you want to give it up, but then, you tell yourself to settle down, take time, give it some space, which makes you more and more frustrated. I feel like that all the time. I live my life with this internal struggle and this song hits this notion on the head. I mean Dear God…can she PLEASE BE ALONE!? Sigh. (I must disclaimer, if you’ve never read me before, I’m not saying at ALL this is what this song is ACTUALLY about, this is simply what I would use it for and how I have related to it. I think it’s obvious, but I feel I must say it for the small chance my articulations get lost in translation.) 

If every good thing in marketing, in life, is a product of timing, for me, this album struck me right between the eyes. Sandwiched in a recent re-obsession with Fleet Foxes and a few stormy pre-Summer nights in NYC with Shearwater, the Earthy disposition of Man/Other Beasts has ground its foundation within my “anything but the concrete jungle right now” soul. When sweat seems like a non-stop problem, it’s nice to take a journey with a civilization that has less choices. Lions and foxes sweat but they don’t care. They eat, drink and fornicate. The Earth sweats itself all over, but hey, the Earth is just silly like that. Silly Earth. Stop sweating so much, you’re hurting people.

The spear cast in my heart from these Earthy jams was just wood, and sharpened, splintered wood. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Wood. And space, time and place, to throw wood.


Fall Classics’ second album “Man/Other Beasts” was released June 1st. If you read this and don't buy it a lion will eat you. Seriously.

Fall Classic Facebook – Bandcamp

Ryan C. Zerfas sure loves his nature as much as he loves his blog. He often writes his blogs at the beach, under the sweet serenade of birds. Tweet, Tweet. (Follow him on Twitter)

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REVIEW - Fall Classic - Nerves

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.

 3.  Stay

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.

 4.  Hearth

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.

 6.  Nerves

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.

 9.  Brothers

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.  



10.  Fear

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.

11.  Victim

“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.

Fall Classic Facebook – Bandcamp

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. 

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