There is a litany of bands that make the decision to pack their bags and move to Los Angeles to try and catch a spark of what makes the town such a magnet for the achiever and under-achiever alike. It carries a certain charm and superiority, to tell your friends that “you’re making an album in LA”, in as much that you’ve made the “big time”, the cynical flipside of this can be seen as throwing money against a wall, hoping it will stick. The considerable expense involved rarely justifies a record company’s return, and while it’s in an artist’s interest to make the best record possible, you’ve just given them an unarguable reason, if you fail to recoup their outlay, to show you the door.
As much as the cynic that I try not to be, this was my first thought upon hearing that Sydney-based pop/rock quartet Faker, in the process of planning the next stage of their career, were doing just that. Coming on the back of their celebrated, and for some, long-awaited debut Addicted Romantic, the band could in no way be considered a last gasp act. If knowing singer/lyricist, and essentially the heart and soul of Faker, Nathan Hudson, he would’ve taken the suggestion in both hands and seen a myriad of possibilities available, knowing the allure in working outside of a familiar environment, the appeal of the unknown, and the potential to succeed or to be a success in failure.
On Addicted Romantic you were greeted by a band with a passion and fervour that you can only get from an act who’ve had time to consider and craft the perfect pop album. It was a record brimming with nostalgia and longing, and with an openness and honesty that has become Hudson’s calling card. Be The Twilight could well be Addicted Romantic’s darker twin, an album with an undercurrent of change, severing relationships and putting distance between the emotional crises that dog our every move. For this record, the line-up was stripped down by one with the departure of guitarist Phil Downing and this absence allows …Twilight a clarity in instrumentation and the opportunity to fill those empty spaces with piano, keys and other ambient sounds.
I always judge an album by its opening lines, and with a couple of electrocardiograph bleeps that signifies the start of first single “This Heart Attack” Nathan Hudson bluntly declares what is to be a recurring mantra throughout Be The Twilight. “I’m going away to be alone, I’m coming back with answers”. The entire album is taken from a view of questioning yourself, your motives, your desires, and the decisions you make — “if you don’t go, you’re never going to know”. The “heart attack” here is a simple metaphor acknowledging it’s time to take a step back before you break. On “Are You Magnetic?” under driving guitars Hudson wonders out loud whether two people are meant to be, because they keep coming back to each other, or if this magnetism is just a fear of moving on.
The strength of Be The Twilight lies in its strong production courtesy of veteran producer Paul Fox (Sugarcubes, They Might Be Giants, XTC), and the obvious eclecticism in those acts reflecting in the variety of styles that filter from track to track, where each song has it own distinct voice while fitting neatly within the theme of the album. The most obvious departure in sound is in the icy rhythms of “Killer On the Loose” where the killer in question isn’t taking lives, but leaving a mess of broken relationships “there’s nothing left to do, move on”. The tough, exterior is shed briefly on the plaintive “Kid, Please Try Harder” where nostalgia takes hold and a plea is made not to give up, and the explosive impassioned ride of “Don’t Hide” suggests that if you take a chance, it could well pay off (the playing of drummer Paul Berryman is frankly astonishing here as it is throughout the entire album). As morbidly fun as “Death Beach Party” sounds its place as the final track on the album is an odd selection, or perhaps the obvious conclusion to the trail of bodies left in the wake of the albums dozen songs, the final jig before the setting sun.
All things considered for the casual listener, it could’ve been easy to dismiss Be The Twilight a passable successor to Addicted Romantic as on first listen it’s immediately what you’ve come to expect from Faker — upbeat, infectious, danceable songs, yet without the playful “ooh la-la-la’s” that first brought them to your attention. When the album is viewed as a whole you realise just how much this band has matured and moved on. Pop/Rock acts are notoriously inconsistent and pop music is often just a repetition of basic vowel sounds without meaning, but you get the feeling that Nathan Hudson writes for no-one but himself and that kind of integrity in songwriting is often found amiss. Faker are one of the few exciting and honest, heart-on-sleeve acts that exist in Australia. Be The Twilight is almost perfection. Almost.