Pampas Fields Noise Found Art find transcendence in a genre combination that has tripped up lesser bands.
This could get dark, but please recognize that it is necessary. Pampas Fields Noise Found Art have released an excellent album with I:I, and something just simply needs to be said to make appropriate contrast. Brace yourselves, here it comes:
Sublime is a terrible band.
Yes the premature death of the band’s singer was tragic, but tragedy doesn’t improve art. On every measure by which music is judged, Sublime gets failing marks. Lyrics: abysmal. Hooks: awkward. Music: lame. Vibe: ?
I’d always assumed that I hated Sublime’s vibe. They took laid back rock, hip-hop, reggae, ska-punk, and made a mockery of all of them that haunts rock radio to this day. And yet, PFNFA have radically changed my worldview. It turns out it was not Sublime’s vibe I hated, it was everything else. PFNFA uses those same elements, the very same ones, and has made something wonderful, creative, invigorating while still maintaining that laid back, beach bum vibe.
Everything you need to know about I:I can be summed up in the first three tracks, marking one of the most perfect opening runs to an album in ages. The best way to think of these songs is in accordance with the scene each song would score in a movie where I:I is the soundtrack. Naturally it would be a film about a magical summer on the beach; that last summer where being a student ends and being a fully jobbed adult begins
“Salir:II” is our opening scene. Prominent synths playing an emotive chord progression take center stage. Before long, soft vocals half sung, half rapped enter low in the mix. The feeling is overwhelmingly melancholy. Our hero is staring out at the beach pondering life, most likely after a personal tragedy. Then the chorus rings out “Life goes on every day / life goes on every night.” The melancholy doesn’t disappear, but it takes on a triumphant edge. By the end of the song, our hero and our listener are ready to take on the world. Life is hard, but it does go on.
The next track, “Aura”, takes us into upbeat rock territory. The music clearly scores a montage of summer fun. This song is a gaggle of young adults playing, swimming, finding romance, losing romance, drinking around a fire. But it’s not exactly immersed in the present moment. It has a longing feeling, like looking back on good memories. Unsurprisingly, this winning combination of ecstatic nostalgia leads to the most transcendent moment on the album, a simple but effective guitar solo into an uplifting bridge and then back down for one last chorus.
The song that concludes our trilogy is “Atone”. While still a fairly brisk rock tune, it is the post-summer song. Our hero is trying to make that summer romance work as real life slowly drains the escapism from the affair. The song sports the best hook on the album with a big synth playing a slightly mournful, distinctly Japanese-sounding melody. The band uses its songwriting chops to make the most of the winning melody by handing it off between the vocals and the instruments throughout the song.
The rest of the album doesn’t flag, but it’s hard when you kick off so strong. Fortunately the band’s relaxed vibe and great songwriting skills to keep the rest of the album compelling. They even tackle a genuine nod at doing a reggae song well on “Ippuku:II”.
As the emotions of the album become more apparent, it is clear that PFNFA are beach bum sat heart with heart. They sound less like big-city folks who have moved to beach to run from problems than townies who grew up on a tropical paradise. They may appreciate the waves and the beach, but recognize that beautiful surroundings aren’t a salve for the vicissitudes of life. After all, there are lawyers in Hawaii, drug addicts in Southern California, civil servants in Okinawa, accountants in Tahiti.
So, PFNFA, not only made a great record, they made one that could change your worldview.