(Stiff Slack Records)
- Out of the woods: Fin Fang Foom in 2007
It's difficult, if not impossible, to consider Fin Fang Foom's Native Tongue apart from its compelling backstory. After all, it's nothing short of a testament that the band—let alone this recording—exists in 2007. Departures, death, near-fatal sickness and a new band member? The rising action of Fin Fang Foom's career path wouldn't have required a conclusion for most bands. As fraught with tension and near-disaster as it was, lesser institutions would have quit long ago. But here it is, a five-song snapshot that signals a resounding and possibly lasting victory, a triumph for Fin Fang Foom that allows for its own future eclipse. Even if it's not a record about beating the unavoidable, that's exactly what it sounds like.
Opener "Native Tongue" is an open-ended break-up song, repeating guitar figures and a bass line that steps down and back up—literally, walking on top of itself, as though stuck in phases of turmoil—representing the drama. Its companion piece is "The Vale of the White Horse," an agit moment that hits like something the Fugazi of Red Medicine could have administered in the '90s. Together, they bleed toward "Untitled," one of two instrumental pieces here, a piano-led ode to contemplation that slow-fades into "Machines," the disc's most aggressive track. It builds on sheets of feedback, atonality and arrhythmia eventually coalescing around Mike Glass's militaristic tom-drum calls. Mike Triplett brings the hammer down with his guitar, and Eddie Sanchez's bass rumbles beneath the skin like a quake of recognition. So begins the fight for the finish, much like Fin Fang Foom—that vaunted comic character of resilience and unflinching stubborn pride—rising to take aim once again. Closer "N.C. Black Out" reflects that renewal, but it doesn't drive as hard as the rest of the EP. Importantly, its elliptical motions suggest that this isn't a conclusion as much as a new beginning.
Even apart from the context of Fin Fang Foom's decade-long struggle and survival, Native Tongue works largely on its own merits. At times, the production struggles with its own weight, and one has to think that new cellist Cynthia Main—who recorded her parts after these songs were composed—could soon provide some welcome twists in a post-rock atmosphere that, lately, has been suffocating with its own formulaic perfection. And if any such unit has the wherewithal for a little deliverance and change, it's likely Fin Fang Foom.