by Mike Faloon
I think Late Republic could be a great Hot Topic record.
I think Future Virgins could make an excellent commercial record.
I probably lost some ground with those two statements, so let’s clear this up—Late Republic is excellent—and then back up.
Future Virgins—a band name I won’t pretend to understand—are a remarkably good band. They’re a punk rock band first and foremost. They may weave in power pop and classic rock, but punk rock is their calling. There’s nothing deceitful or disingenuous in their sound. To the contrary, they radiate more heart than everyone else, regardless of genre.
To my mind (and ears and soul—these guys appeal on so many levels) they’re somewhere between the Clash and the Replacements. Not so much in terms of sound, but attitude (though there are certainly Strummer-like phrases and Stinson-like lead guitar licks). I characterize the Clash as a global band—politics across borders, mate! I characterize the Replacements as a personal band—man, why does life have to ache like this? Future Virgins have bits of both, dip their lyrical paddles in both waters. They’re rich in the kind of authenticity marketing creeps are forever trying to decode—how can we manufacture a band the kids will accept as real? Wait, what is real? Call the sixth floor. Have them send up any metrics they have on ‘real.’
Focus groups will only get you so far. If those dweebs would ever ditch their spread sheets, they’d be buying up boxes of Late Republic. Listen to that rhythm guitar that pulsates through the verses of “Breaking Bread.” Man, how much better my teenage years would have been with that echoing in my head during chemistry class. And that’s not to risk another back handed compliment. I may be geezer age but killer guitar riffs still ease the day.
I used to think Future Virgins were an EP band, best experienced in short, brilliant bursts. That’s probably a function of how I first heard them—a live set at The Fest then a series of EPs of three-to-six songs. It took me awhile to adjust to their full-length debut (Western Problems, Starcleaner, 2011). I came around in time, embraced that record with school boy enthusiasm. Now with Late Republic I’ve done a one eighty. This is an album band, they work best with the bigger canvas.
And I think they’d possibly benefit from an even larger canvas, or more accurately a different kind of canvas. By that I mean I think they’re one of the few bands that could successfully handle a more lavish production sound. Most bands—punk or otherwise—wilt when given slicker production. Their ideas get lost in a whirlpool of excessive overdubbing and dopey suggestions from the herd of crazed chefs cramming their way into the proverbial kitchen. But a few bands take that plunge and break through (artistically, quality-wise; I’m not talking about sales figures). Much as I dig the first Clash record, Give ‘em Enough Rope is even better. Who’d have guessed that Sandy “Blue Oyster Cult” Pearlman and the Clash would have yielded such an amazing album. (Well, the first seven tracks, anyway.) The Breeders’ Last Splash. Green Day’s Dookie. Black Wine’s Hollow Earth. Each one has top notch, radio ready production that elevates the material. Of course, for every one of those successes there are hundreds of Don’t Tell a Souls, the Replacements gooey, what-were-they-thinking-were-they-even-listening? record from 1989.
But that’s looking past Late Republic. That’s speculating what Future Virgins might be capable of. (Maybe. It could be argued that Late Republic is that record; it sounds spectacular.) That’s also my way of saying this record is more mature than the band’s previous records. This record is better produced and easier to digest. I also think it’s Future Virgins’ best. The hooks are sharper, more immediate. There’s more space between the guitar lines, more contrast. And the band’s passion burns as bright as ever, maybe brighter because maintaining an outlook such as theirs—yep, it’s hard, dude; press on—becomes more challenging with age.
Best of all, I’m just scratching the surface. I’ve barely spent any time with the lyrics. Late Republic is probably just going to get better.
There are records you like and there are records that matter. With Late Republic I vote for that latter.