It’s kind of funny how Talk Talk seems to be The Faim’s realisation that their peak came in their very first couple of songs. Specifically, that’s Midland Line, not a revolutionary track by any means, but one whose earnestness and catchiness in pop-rock was enough to make its subsequent squandering noticeable. Since then, The Faim’s material has largely consisted on alt-pop feeling drastically lumpy, overcooked and unfocused, to where it’s really not a surprise that they didn’t catch on to the degree that the backing behind them had pegged. Their full releases just weren’t very good, all told, which is why Talk Talk being…okay is at least something. Now, if you’re expecting new wave or synthpop á la the album’s namesake, don’t get your hopes up; the closest The Faim come is pop-rock produced to within an inch of its life, though admittedly more regularly catchy than they’ve been in the past. They’re back on a straightforward pop-rock bent with Ease My Mind or Flowers, bringing back the higher-capacity guitars that they’ve so often neglected for a propulsiveness that does lean older overall. By ‘older’, obviously that’s all relative; in the context of the sound, The Faim continue to be one of the most polished and sonically clean-cut bands around, where it’s maybe integrated better this time around, but still displays a lack of constitution that these sounds as a whole find common. That’s in the breathy acoustics of The Alchemist and inch-thick production gleam of ERA, neither of which are awful in principle, but don’t mix well with The Faim’s inherent lack of flavour. Give the exact same elements to, say, The Summet Set, and they’d bring some heartland-rock style to go along with them; here, they act more like concessions to where The Faim were that are more blasé than anything.
But, against all of that, Talk Talk is a better album, inasmuch as it punches up an approach that desperately needed it and makes a clear step up apparent. That is to say, it brings back the energy and pop verve that The Faim seem to have been deliberately skirting by for most of their material, basically from the beginning with madly, deeply, fixed’s roiling tread and generally more bracing sense of pace. It’s an instance where Josh Raven’s trade-off between vocal power for the affability of a pop-rock frontman (he’s still not shaken off an undercurrent of surliness here) can potentially be hit-or-miss, but he’s got just enough of a pocket in yearning love songs like You (And My Addiction) and big, ‘80s-flavoured liberation on Life In A Cinema. It works on the metric of plain catchiness, with ‘plain’ being the operative word when this is very well-worn ground by anyone’s standards. As lyricists, The Faim have their noses buried deep within the pop-rock playbook, right down to climactic ‘look how far we’ve come’ closer of ERA, and that makes Talk Talk as a whole feel a bit thin. As far as pop-rock goes, The Faim are far from earning a seat at that top table on what still isn’t all the special, but in the vacuum of their own career that’s always been the most flattering way of viewing them, they’re at least going the right way. Whether that means they’ll ever reach proper greatness, only time will tell; as of now, there’s enough to like and become casually invested in, regardless of how long it’ll actually sit for.
For fans of: Set It Off, Panic! At The Disco, The Summer Set
‘Talk Talk’ by The Faim is released on 8th July on BMG.
Words by Luke Nuttall