Looking back on The Faim’s Summer Is A Curse EP now, it’s easier than ever to see why it didn’t work. It showed a band clearly stuck in a flux between the period of immediately bankable pop-rock being the norm and the sudden paradigm shift to that role being filled by alt-pop and emo-rap, and the workarounds taken to try and plug in any gaps in their existing mould were blatant. It was all over the place for one, unable to settle on any one sound that did the band justice, and so ended up as a patchwork of half-ideas simultaneously feeling over-processed and undercooked. Even if it generally succeeded in what it wanted to do (after all, it didn’t put any sort of dampener on a push The Faim have gotten that still feels dubious at best), it’s not set up the field for this debut full-length to land strongly at all. That could potentially be even more detrimental in the long run too, given that this is what most will turn to as an example of what The Faim are capable of, and if this is little more than a continuation of the undeveloped, scattershot approach of their EP, State Of Mind could see itself in some real trouble.
To be fair though, that’s not nearly as much of an issue here, seeing how much State Of Mind is a step forward in tightening and straightening out what The Faim had previously laid down. That alone is enough to make this a better release, but if this was supposed to be the one to shoot for the stars and establish The Faim as modern pop-rock heroes, they’re still far from hitting that mark. It’s not even like there’s such a brazen incapability of reaching that standard anymore, but State Of Mind simply doesn’t go far enough with whatever it’s got left to be all that engaging or interesting, instead meandering through ‘good enough’ territory for effectively its entire duration. The promise that The Faim are clearly determined to make more evident is here, but it’s surrounded by far too much fluff to make it truly worthwhile.
It’s pretty easy to isolate where things go awry as well, given that The Faim wear their identity as a contemporary pop-rock band on their sleeves, and thus play directly into the tropes of modern, colourless production that puts the size of the song before filling them with instrumental flair or flavour. There’s no flow within tracks like Humans or Beautiful Drama, as empy verses are busted open by clattering, cavernous percussion that pitches subtly or nuance right out of the window in favour of simply sounding big and imposing, only for the drained production to sap any vestige of power that may be left. For as often as The Faim want to channel an arena-rock sensibility in the sheer size of their compositions, it’s rarely anchored in anything that can justify that heft. At least Summer Is A Curse has the dancing pianos across its verses for a bit more brightness; by comparison, a song like Amelie launches everything to very front of the mix for a blast of white noise that clearly believes that volume alone is enough to succeed. It’s akin to how a lack of modulation has frequently dashed Fall Out Boy’s most recent material, only The Faim don’t have Patrick Stump to fall back on for more melody, instead with Josh Raven being a powerful frontman but really only contributing to the noise rather than breaking it up.
But here’s the odd thing – there’s a decent amount of material on State Of Mind that gives the impression that The Faim are undercutting their own abilities as a pop-rock band with missteps as blatant as these. There’s not going to be anything here that rivals the best of the Fall Out Boys or Panic! At The Discos that are obviously in earshot, and there’s still a reliance on polish that cranks up the sterility to an unnecessary degree, but on the bubbling synths and guitars of Infamous that can actually hold their own against the bigger drums, or the roiling bass of Worlds Apart accompanied by a liquid guitar line reminiscent of recent Bring Me The Horizon ballads, it highlights a sense of melody that feels like such a natural direction for The Faim to go in, and yet they don’t. Even something like Buying Time, which does riff on that aforementioned formula but lets the guitars play more of a role, is much more palatable, simply because it’s a fuller example of how this thing can operate that doesn’t feel as reliant on superficial size as a crutch.
But one of the knock-on effects of State Of Mind falling into this fragmented presentation is that is puts more emphasis on the writing to paper over the cracks, and though The Faim are nowhere near as uninspired as others in their lane, there’s still not a great deal of depth to look into. The clear outlier is Where The River Runs, a piano ballad in which Raven discusses his father’s homelessness and how he had to deal with that, but it’s the one moment that really has personal weight, no matter how much melodrama The Faim try to tie into songs like Amelie. To be fair, they’re at least not rinsing the line-for-line platitudes that have become inexcusable to dredge back up at this stage, but it’s really all the same thematically, from tacking one’s own vices on Humans to taking a leap into the unknown on Summer Is A Curse to an examination of mental health on the title track. It’s delivered well enough with Raven being suitably expressive, but it’s another example of the band’s refusal to go deeper than superficiality that mars what could’ve been an overall decent experience.
Ultimately, that proves to be one of two major issues that The Faim still haven’t resolved, the other being that there’s still very little indication of what this band actually wants to be at the end of the day. Yes, it’s more evident than it once was, but State Of Mind is still a confused album, trying to double down on the framework of the modern pop-rock machine while simultaneously trying to do more, with neither of those outcomes gelling in any meaningful way. It’s why State Of Mind feels as inelegant as it does; with a few more drafts, this could’ve worked, but it doesn’t feel like enough consideration was given for what the best process to reach that endpoint would be. It leaves an album that just feels lost and forgettable, stumbling into the areas that could see The Faim achieve more if they focused on them, but also proudly wearing a reticence to stay still that proves to be its downfall. It goes without saying that there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but given how this album was already supposed to represent that as The Faim make their bid for bigger things, it’s tough to say how much of anything will pay off going further forward.
For fans of: Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Twenty One Pilots
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘State Of Mind’ by The Faim is released on 13th September on BMG Rights Management.