Romantics make better bedfellows than irascible rebels, so how did emo become enmeshed with punks? When Sunny Day Real Estate crumbled into ragged, four-on-the-floor rumble, someone should have suggested that welding a heart to the sleeve of tattooed insurrectionists was a bad look. The narcissism of those who would burn down the malls doesn't leave room for emotion as much as it does vainglorious self-pity. But Fan-Tan, four Triangle expatriates who started their new, terse four-piece after converging in New York City, mix Sunny Day's grandiose post-punk melancholy with the sonic blueprints of Roxy Music and their New Wave antecedents. It's a good look, too—entertaining and appropriate, with energy to spare.
Though the slashing, angular guitars and the '80s fascination may imply dance-punk, the emotional pitch is bigger than dance-floor diversion, surfing the epic ebb and flow of Mike Walters' synthesizers over the churning six-strings. Singer/ guitarist Ryan Lee Dunlop's importuning vocals recall Peter Murphy, while the lyrics turn on big-picture topics like death and faltering morality. During the burbling, vaguely gothic "On Your Wall," Dunlop invokes The Picture of Dorian Gray, singing, "I can't say if there ever was a way/ To convince someone that anything awaits." On "Good Men," he sees "the hint of beguiling and greed that good men will one day heed."
The heady topics and dystopic outlook work in concert with Dunlop's wavering tenor and the swelling, propulsive music, forging moody majesty much more in keeping with Sunny Day Real Estate's enormous early efforts than with whiny 20-somethings complaining about their love life. Any of those elements on their own could tip into pretension, but woven together with a theatrical insistence, they evoke menacing storm clouds that threaten violence. Like a well-written movie, it intends to swallow you up in its five-song, 24-minute world with such ardor that you're surprised when it's over. These songs lack instant allure, but given a chance, this proves a wonderfully diverting and evolved release.