Although Forest Giants is a new band hailing from London, frontman Tim Rippington has led his previous band Beatnik Filmstars on a number of adventures in the 90s which included multiple slots on the John Peel Show and a US tour with the Flaming Lips. The new album he's made with Forest Giants, titled In Sequence, shows that he's been around the block a few times. What's nice about this album is the diversity of sound you find, and the confidence that Forest Giants has while playing around with their style.
The first comparison that jumps to my mind is like an early era Boo Radleys (Giant Steps perhaps?), where the album jumps out in all directions: melodic, droning, jangling, psychedelic, basically a big mix-up of sounds that keeps the LP pretty dynamic. One track I dig is "F.W.I.," which gives you sort of a slow driving beat that's layered with all sorts of fuzzy guitar noises. The single from the album is called "Postcards," which reminds me a bit of the Wedding Present in a good way. It's sort of a short reflective tale that works up into a thick guitar-driven conclusion. "20 years ago you said we'd smash the glass, but all I have to show is some hand downs from the past". Without the musical context, that probably sounds like Cure lyrics or something, but the mood from these songs is anything but self-indulgent, because it really is the music that does most of the talking the reason I'd stress The Boo Radleys comparisons.
But Forest Giants isn't borrowing anybody's style. They just share the same spirit of creativity I see in these other bands, while staying quite true to their own agenda. Invisible Hands Music has released a 3 track '45 for "Postcards" as well, which is fun. The first B-Side, "Mr. Doorman," doesn't do too much that you can't find on the full-length release, but second B-Side, "Genius," is intriguing enough if you want to hear more of these guys. Though both B-Sides are ultimately very short, all in all they make a nice contribution to keep the Postcards single balanced. Keep your eyes out for In Sequence though, because the band sounds best with the diversity of the full album.-Danny Rowe
It’s left then to Forest Giants to salvage some kind of honour for the label, and in fact In Sequence is almost good enough to erase all memory of Clear and The Kates. It’s a warm, personal kind of record, completely at odds with the forced bluster and bruising egos of its label mates. Maybe that’s not surprising, given that Forest Giants’ songwriter is Tim Rippington, and for all those of you going ‘duh, Tim who?’ let’s just do a speedy recap and remind ourselves that Tim is ex of the often fabulous but under-rated Beatnik Filmstars, and if we go further back we find him a one-time player in the Flatmates, and is my memory deceiving me or wasn’t he also in the groovy Groove Farm? Of course this is all going back a long time into the mists of Bristol’s murky late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but whatver… It’s in those murky depths that you’ll also find fellow Forest Giant Ruth Cochrane, playing sublime bass for the Blue Aeroplanes when they were at the boparty peak of their powers (back when they also still had the genius of Richard Bell in their magnificent ranks). No surprise then that the sound of Forest Giants is one that is mature and perfectly poised; that In Sequence is a delight of low-key rock-pop with an eclectic edge. Their label mates would do well to study and learn.
This Brit foursome from Bristol, England offer up their second EP, UFO Stories, as a follow up to In Sequence (2004). The six songs here are not all otherworldly tales or close encounters of the third kind, but rather pop reflections that loosely relate to the theme of UFOs. Forest Giants is a collection of musicians that have been kickin' around and playing in other Bristol bands for years.
"Sunrise" is a arresting and melodic pop song that features some great guitar soloing and musical meandering. An ambient and atmospheric sound guided by a spoken word narrator marks the title track, which recounts the tale of a UFO sighting in Australia, circa 1976. You almost feel as if you are listening to a live report of this sighting on an old transistor radio, as the static and feedback of the guitars create the sense of mystery of this unknown encounter. The disc closes with a simple love song ("Late Night in the Park"). Overall, these Forest Giants stand tall with these half dozen tracks.
A treat from start to finish. Peel championed pop pickers Forest Giants have been ploughing their own furrow of deliciously over fuzzed indie for a number of years now and 'Welcome to the Midwest', the bands latest album, serves as a great recap of previous glories while pushing into new territories.
As a set, the tracks here give a consciously more upbeat and live feel than some of the shoegaze-tinged efforts of yore and offer a great glimpse of what a visceral indie rock outfit these guys could be live. Touching base with the likes of Superdrag, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride and even New York based anglophiles Ambulance LTD, the guys have hit on a new dynamic and the new songs would seem to suggest the flame is burning brighter than ever before.
Opening in the hazy buster of 'I Don't Think You Understand' the albums template is set out early with walls of chiming guitars and fuzzed up bass powering an introverted shoegaze vocal over the finishing line. The tempo never shifts much as the band plough through an Interpol indebted opening section of the album featuring highlights 'Why Wait' and the stunning 'The Message'.
The mix throughout is heavy and muddy yet somehow melodies appear in the haze like a mirage of a candy machine before disappearing as quickly as it arrived, sucked into the claustrophobic mix like quick sand.
Closing with the downbeat 'Reverse Outro 3' (all minor chords and staccato lines) the album feels like a complete package with songs written with others in mind.
This is not just a collection of songs were dealing with but a dense package designed to be downed in one with a fuzzy aftertaste. Musical pepto bismol if you will. But a whole lot sweeter.
So come on down to the Midwest, you might like it!
Fizz, fuzz and fizz again and please don’t use the fucking ‘indie’ word when we’ve got such a brilliant and really rocking record on, because that’s what Forest Giants are. A rock band and even a cloth-eared eedjit like your humble can spot that with “I Don’t Think You Understand” whipping from the speakers, surfing the wave of fuzz and switchbacking the lighting guitar flashery and the nagging, high synth drones that Eno lost in Berlin. In my imagination, “Wasted” is the surprise hit of a lazy summer and surely those lazy Beck with an unfeasibly large number of Fall records sounds couldn’t fail to inspire newly hoodless youth to spike municipal ponds with sherbet and lsd and everything would be, very cool indeed. Unlikely I know, but if you want to hear the dream and you do, by the way, you can do so here www.forestgiants.co.uk and if you find out which of the eleven tracks is about beards, please let me know.
Forest Giants hail not from the Mid-West of prairies, creamed corn and dust bowls, but the mid-west of trip-hop, the Mendips and the mighty Clifton Suspension Bridge. Despite their roots, there isn’t much evidence of the Bristol Sound in their music at all, as they seem to draw more influences from the 90’s shoegazing movement and drone pop. First track ‘I Don’t Think You Understand’ plants a foot firmly on the fuzz pedal and stays there for the duration. ”I can’t seem to find a way of getting through today” intones singer Tim Rippington in his nasal, well-enunciated tones, sounding uncannily like the love-child of a West Country Lou Reed and The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to find a way of getting to a memorable hook either, and for all the overdriven dynamics on show, the tune is curiously forgettable.
The band crank things up a notch with the charming distorted thrash of ‘Why Wait’, which, like all the best pop songs, delivers a simple, immediate melody and slips in respectably under the 2 minute mark. In fact, the band seem to show their best side with the more stripped-down, subtler material. Both the gentle lull of ‘Stars’ and spare delicacy of ‘The Message’ are standouts. The latter, featuring vocals from violinist Paula Knight, perhaps plunders a little too heavily from the style of Galaxie 500, but its looping fiddle and chugging guitars ensure it never descends into blatant homage. Elsewhere, the excellent ‘Namesakes’ sees the Giants in morose mood, adopting a looser feel with lethargic drums and frail keyboard perfectly enhancing Rippington’s bereft delivery.
There are portions of this record where you can shut your eyes and suddenly be transported to the early 90’s – and whether you see this as a positive effect or not, there’s no real new ground being broken here. However, it’s undeniable that when Forest Giants lay off the fuzz and set the metronome to 20bpm, they have the potential to produce some corkers.
POSTCARDS 7" / IN SEQUENCE CD 2004
Just about every review I've seen on the Forest Giants has in the first sentence some sort of reference to the fact that Head Forest Giant Tim Rippington used to be in The Beatnik Filmstars and how he left the band before they got really big. Well look at that; this review is no different! Sure, that's a bigger name as far as indie cred goes, and maybe it was a bummer for him that he didn't get swept along for the ride. But here's a headline from the front pages of "Where Are They Now": The Beatnik Filmstars BROKE UP, ok? Whereas Tim and his assorted new bandmates (including ex-Blue Aeroplane member Ruth Cochrane) continue to put out some really good, rollicking and raw brit-pop that in my opinion is as good as or better than his old band.
This is the single Postcards from their full length "In Sequence" (I'll probably write more about the full length in a few weeks) and they couldn't have picked a better song to show off on. "Postcards" crashes through the trees as a great loping beast of a song, mixing that scratchy distorted grandeur of Guided by Voices with the more straightforward and lower singing of David Gedge. Maybe even a bit of early New Order thrown in there. Interestingly, there are two different instrument solos on this song, one being a reverbed harmonica and the other an overdriven electric guitar that reminded me in its style of Dean Wareham's of Luna, circa Anesthesia or so.
Certain hallmarks of the Beatniks remain in the music, most noticeably that edgy refusal to conform to a perfectly standard pop song. It's almost as if they could be the life of the well-heeled champagne n' sequins drenched cocktail party, but they always end up shooting off several bottlerockets they've been carrying around in their pockets, just to liven things up. Well, "Postcards" IS the single, so it's pretty accessible all around. But the two short B-Side songs (that are not on the full length LP), "Mr. Postman" and "Genius", certainly make up for it. "Mr. Postman" is strident like a Slanted and Enchanted track with weird whirlings in the background. In contrast, "Genius" is distorted past the point of fuzzy with soaring verses like "I am a genius with nothing to lose..." Maybe these aren't so much songs as thoughtful noise fragments... but if these are merely "hand downs from the past", then I'll gladly take a full one or two pounds of them for my supper, thank you very much sir.
The Beatnik Filmstars album that In Sequence most resembles is their second, Laid Back and English. On that album, the band transcended the garden-variety shoegaze of their first album but hadn’t fully assimilated their Fall and GBV influences yet. The songs on Laid Back and English were more than content to let a single riff linger for three or four minutes, and oceans of distorted, reverberating guitars often did more talking than the actual lyrics did. On future Filmstars albums, the guitars were tinny and trebly, and the songs were lucky to make it past the 90-minute mark. The songs on Laid Back and English were far from boring, but they weren’t as short or sharp as the music that would immediately succeed it. In Sequence has that same sort of long-lined minimalism, but it has a little extra something that Tim’s previous band lacked: sweetness.
Opening track “Secrets” only needs five lines and a couple of guitars to make its point. The full lyrics are: “You were a teacher; now you’re a rock star. I was your pupil; now I’m a failure. I wish I could know your secrets.” It’s the kind of brief love letter that I could picture Tim writing to Guided by Voices’ Bob Pollard (whom the Beatnik Filmstars once dedicated a song to). The first 90 seconds of “Route a115” consist of little more than a rhythm section, a taped conversation, and an assortment of grinding noises. Once the first verse kicks in, the song turns into Tim’s laconic goodbye to his social circle. “Jello” is an optimistic ballad about recovering from physical and emotional sickness that shifts into a minor-key dirge during its coda. “Do You Know What I’ve Been Through?” chronicles a boring night spent alone with an exactitude that would bore the listener were it not for the random noises that undercut the song, like a chain gang working at the bottom of a well. The Ballboy-aping “Baby” rides a wonderful fretless bass line (kudos to bassist Ruth Cochran for her unceasingly solid playing on this album) as Tim chronicles the plight of a brokenhearted woman, fluidly switching from detached spoken word to sympathetic crooning.
Despite the often sad subject matter, the lyrics on In Sequence never descend to the cynicism and bitterness that the Beatnik Filmstars made their stock-in-trade. “Don’t go away for too long,” Tim sings on album closer “Holiday Song.” “I’m gonna miss that smiling face when you are gone.” Even though the vocals and guitars are buried under a cake of grimy noise, the sweet sentiment is still there, and it’s one that would have never made it onto Astronaut House. Even when the music gets a bit too repetitive (as on the album’s only clunker, “F.W.L.”), there’s a sense of nostalgic wistfulness that keeps the Forest Giants in line with all of the great indie-pop bands of the last two decades, from the Smiths to the Smittens. The only major complaint I have against In Sequence is that, at nine songs in 27 minutes, it’s WAY too short, especially for someone who hasn’t released any music in six years. Tim, take your own advice and come back soon!
Within the first five seconds of Forest Giants’ debut LP In Sequence, singer Tim Rippington declares, “I am a rock star.” Whether it’s a claim made tongue-in-cheek or a prediction is unclear. Formerly of Beatnik Filmstars, Rippington is joined in Forest Giants by two other musicians (Ruth Cochran and Jo Head) to create washed-out rock that takes the best parts of pop and twists them into something completely refreshing.
The hip-shaking rhythm section is prominently featured in “Route 115,” backing a tour guide’s voice for the first minute and a half, then exploding into a rock chorus proper: “Goodbye my friends / Our run has come to an end.” Forest Giants sounds like a darker Boyracer: same frenetic drums, muggy bass, and phoned-in vocals. But where Boyracer is hyper in the sugar-laced sense of the word, Forest Giants’ succinct musings seem propelled by the feeling of being chased by something big, dark, and scary (a forest giant, perhaps?).
“Jello” has the same propellant drums, and a nice psychedelic jam at the end. “Do You Know What I’ve Been Through?” is calmer than a lot of the album and features a bassline that sounds eerily similar to the Twin Peaks theme. “Nervous” is a one-minute “nam style flashback, complete with what sounds like a distant chopper and radio static. “Postcards” was released as part of Invisible Hands’ Singles Club, and rightly so; It’s the most “complete” feeling song here, with its traditional structure and somewhat clear production. But “FWL” is the standout song of the album. It’s dark and sweaty, with a grinding bassline, and reminiscent of a dirty basement party. “Baby” finds Rippington sing-talking, turning the song into a poppier “Goodmorning, Captain.” “Holiday Song” has a very conspicuous electric guitar line over acoustic strums and distorted vocals. It’s actually kind of a mess, right down to the sarcastic la la la’s.
Forest Giants is hard to pin down. It’s too pop to be rock, and too edgy to be pop. That’s not to say pop lovers will feel alienated by Forest Giants; if anything, the band has taken a somewhat tired genre and enlivened it a bit. Rock fans will rejoice at finding a band that’s edgy without being wanky or “screamo.”
THE MAG - Saturday 27th of December 2003
The Forest Giants represent the rebirth of ex-Beatnik Filmstars' Tim Rippington. After five John Peel sessions, seven albums and a 1998 US tour with the Flaming Lips Tim thought that was the end of his musical career.
However, that was before the Forest Giants happened. With Ruth Cochran on bass and Jo Head on drums, the Forest Giants are probably the most unorthodox band we've ever heard.
'In Sequence' is a collection of short tracks with a raw feel remaniscent of Pavement. Third song 'Jello' is a real early-indie jem, with some great guitar hooks and a somewhat melodic chorus. It all sounds very relaxed and it is easy to imagine the band sat around on comfy sofa's drinking tea while gently recording a few numbers. This picture is far removed from the grim reality of using electrical appliances in a leaking warehouse in Bristol.
Following on from 'Jello', 'do you know what I've been through?' is a down-beat early Britpop number with a repeated guitar riff over a distant drum and bass track. The vocals in this track probably display the most emotion on the album with the singer repeating the title-line in a rhetorical chant.
After an eclectic interlude titled 'nervous', the final four songs flow gently together with single release 'postcards' pulling the record back up to speed. This track has the most general appeal, with a classic tube amp sound, tuneful solo and a few memorable bits too.
'f.w.l', 'baby' and 'holiday song' are over before you know it, this may not be fast-punk, but rather cleverly none of the tracks get much past three minutes.
The album is a collection. Even if a single track doesn't stand out to you, (and 'Jello', 'Postcards' or 'f.w.l' will) the sum of these parts is an album the likes of which you will not hear very often. Bands like Forest Giants may never be famous, they may not appeal to very many people, but as long as they do their own thing with Violent Femmes style 'tuning' on the guitars, lyrics that reflect personal experience and a completely fringe style of putting it all together, they will get a hardcore of dedicated followers.
'In Sequence' is a 30 minute artifact that will be loved by fans of Pavement, the Violent Femmes and any eighties act that wore NHS glasses.
SPACE CITY ROCK 2005
On their second EP, UFO Stories, Forest Giants lure you in with a simple and very narcotic musical recipe. Nothing is overdone, nothing is forced, and the end result sounds like they just put a microphone up in their living room and tried to write songs for the first time. The six songs contained here make you want to close your eyes and daydream about whatever makes you feel good. The sound is very bare-bones and has a kind of weird early ’90s feel, one that’ll remind you of bands that you haven’t thought of in years. Which makes sense, by the way, since the band is made up of musicians with some pretty serious cred to their names: bassist Ruth Cochrane played in the Blue Aeroplanes in their early days and later toured with the Mekons and drummer Tim Rippington and guitarist Tom Adams played in the Beatnik Filmstars, who toured with the Flaming Lips, Superchunk, and The Wedding Present.
“Beards” starts things off with a pleading melody and instantly draws you in. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t try too hard to impress, which gives it a little charm right away. The band immediately shifts gears on the second song, “Oh No,” which sounds like a lost, just-discovered Jesus and Mary Chain track. It’s my favorite cut on the EP and maintains the band’s compact, intriguing songwriting approach.
The third song, “Peculiar Feeling,” is a stark and stripped-down acoustic number that paints a beautiful picture by barely moving an inch. It’s the beginning of a slow but purposeful descent into the heart of the recording, which is the group’s tribute to Elliott Smith, who died while they were making this EP. While there are only a few songs on this effort, they clearly crafted each one to have a point, and I think the listener benefits from the concept. The recording eases down to a whisper on the last few songs, which are more like sculpted AM radio static than anything else. Transmissions from another planet, anyone? Whatever the music’s source, this is a solid offering from a band that couldn’t care less about what all the other bands from England are doing right now.
UFO Stories, the follow-up release to In Sequence by the Bristol, England-based band Forest Giants, is a six-track album that combines guitar, percussion, and violins to create sometimes punky, oftentimes whimsical, and always enveloping cascade of sounds.
The band is clearly full of ambition and passion for their music. They have even made a film for UFO Stories that they plan to show on TV screens behind them during their live shows. The four-piece group is made up of Tom Rippington on guitar/vocals, Ruth Cochrane on bass, Tom Adams on drums, and Paula Knight on violin and keyboards. While this release has just six tracks (or eight, if you nab one of the first pressed CDs with two hidden tracks), UFO Stories is a strong release that shows promise of getting Forest Giants some more notice beyond the confines of England.
The first song, "Beards", is an atmospheric, feel-good, comfortably fuzzy pop song, invoking strains of Jesus & Mary Chain in its starry-eyed glow. "Oh No" follows it up, with a semi-foreboding feeling at the start which morphs into a guitar-heavy rock song. These two opening songs quickly show that Forest Giants have got the indie guitar sound down. The third track, "Peculiar Feeling", was written in homage to Elliott Smith, who died during the making of this CD. Semi-acoustic guitar is accompanied by Knight's somber and mesmerizing violin accompaniment, making this a highlight on the release.
The UFO theme really starts to come into play on the next two tracks. "Sunrise" opens with UFO reports in the background and inexplicably joyous feedback and vocals with a hazy, REM-esque quality; a flourishing guitar/percussion sequence ends the song in an uplifting mood. The title track which follows is an "off the beaten path" piece, with Rippington reciting a UFO-abduction story over a steady background beat. The CD wraps up with "Late Night in the Park", which begins as a lonely, quiet ballad and slowly picks up. If you've snagged one of the first pressed CDs, there are two more songs that follow. The first is called "Interlude", which is basically one minute and 48 seconds of hearing what it might sound like if one was actually abducted by aliens. (Was the band?) "World Goes Round" contains a sad story about a family breaking apart, but still manages to remain a hopeful song. It might be a bit on the "chin up, you're not alone" side, but it's forgivable, and is a good way to end a very polished album.
What's with the UFO thing, you might be asking? Rippington tries to explain, saying, "We've always been fascinated by ufos — or rather, by the people who are fascinated by ufos. In the USA, one in ten people claim to have had a close encounter of some kind, so maybe there is something going on out there…we leave it up to you to make up your own minds."
Just as plausible an explanation is Forest Giants themselves, as an otherworldly, enigmatic, and ethereal band that seemingly arrived out of nowhere and is poised to ensnare pretty-pop fans across the globe.
Lancaster-based Cherryade Records steams ahead with its fourth release, 'Welcome to the Mid-West' by Forest Giants.
The album is a collection of brilliantly catchy pop songs in the style of Magoo, with churning guitars and pumping keyboards. The songs are incredibly easy to get into. It is hard to understand why bands like this don’t get more recognition on radio or in major music publications. The mind boggles.
In any case, there are three main reasons why I really like this album;
1. Because the songs are so dense with instruments, there’s something different to focus on with every listen.
2. Because it’s easy to dance around like an idiot to them.
3. Because the band sound like they’re enjoying making the record.
There’s nothing more infectious than when the band playing the songs sound like they’re having fun playing them, and these guys sound like they’re having a ball.
I’d pick some stand-out tracks, but to be perfectly honest I like every track as much as the others. Earlier Cherryade single ‘Planes Fly Overhead’ is a high-point, but opener ‘I Don’t Think You Understand’ and ‘So You Think You’re Unhappy?’ are equally pop-tastic. The slower, and female-lead, ‘The Message’ is a really good midway point to the record, a really sweet sounding track that gives you a chance to catch a breath from all that dancing you’ve been doing.
This album makes me think that Forest Giants would be a tremendously fun live act, and I wait with baited breath for them to play some shows near me. I’ll get my dancing shoes out and ready.
It's quite likely you've never heard of The Forest Giants. For fans of indie influenced guitar rock that is certainly a shame. The UK media is notable for spilling ink from countless tins, in their sycophantic search for the second emergence of Coldplay; meanwhile a quiet, more credible four-some is laying claim to the mantle of next in the Jesus and Mary Chain right under their noses.
With an EP of tightly haunting tracks entitled UFO Stories lingering on the shelf from just a year ago, the Forest Giants have come forth strong in 2006 in support of what feels like a second stroke of pure rock genius, Welcome to the Mid-West. Their songs are pure fist pumping, guitar bliss, led by Tim Rippington. Listening to him drive this vehicle, he can surely be counted among the more underappreciated front men in the business. Transplant yourself back 15 years with "So You Think You're Unhappy?" and "Why Wait" or further into the annals of shoe-gazer ecstasy on "Planes Fly Overhead." There are a few anthems worthy of mention: try "Closure" on for size over your next overland drive, a song that is franticly enthusiastic without diminishing into a parody of its own energy. Over the album's 40 minutes there are very few lags, and almost nowhere will a listener feel the need to turn the other cheek to the Forest Giant's sense of nostalgia. Its engineering is peerless, nesting a patchwork of sonic treasures just beneath the surface to reward curious ears. All told, the Forest Giants are a perfect amalgamation of Jesus and Mary Chain, a la Honey's Dead, and a more contemporary collectively creative feel, like that of Belle and Sebastian.
Like on any great record, the sound of Welcome To The Mid-West just melds inexplicably into a cohesive collection of songs. They might be an obscure reach for some, but make no doubt, the Forest Giants are a great band at the top of their craft. Between this album and last year's UFO Stories there is more than enough evidence of that.
In my review of the Beatnik Filmstars’ latest album In Great Shape, I wrote that one of the reasons why I didn’t mention them in my reviews as much as I do Boyracer and Guided by Voices, despite the fact that I hold all three bands in equally high esteem, is that the music that the individual Filmstars made with during the band’s seven-year hiatus wasn’t good enough to uphold their legacy. Shortly after the review was posted, I received a MySpace message from Filmstars guitarist Tim Rippington that half-jokingly said, “I hope that my band wasn’t one of those dodgy solo projects you were referring to!” The message made me feel bad, but not bad enough to fully retract what I wrote. As much as I liked his other band the Forest Giants’ debut In Sequence, I knew that it didn’t hold a candle to any of the Filmstars records I owned. Two months after I wrote that review, the Giants' new album Welcome to the Mid-West appeared in my mailbox — and from the very first listen, I promptly started eating my words.
The most common criticism that I’ve seen leveled against In Great Shape is that it doesn’t bring the noise like previous Beatnik Filmstars records did. I don’t have a problem with that, but I could see why others would. If you are one of those people, though, you definitely need to pick up Welcome to the Mid-West, as it is the most massive-sounding record any Filmstar has been involved with since 1993's Laid-Back and English. Every instrument is liberally coated in distortion and reverb. Between Tim’s layered guitars and bassist Ruth Cochrane’s busy playing, many of the songs sound like they’re being played by 10 people instead of four. However, Mid-West has none of the arty tomfoolery that disrupts the average Filmstars album. The Forest Giants state on their website that “the idea behind the album was to make an old-fashioned 10-song record with all proper-length songs, no weirdo fillers, [and] one overall sound.” They definitely succeeded. This album boasts a concision and consistency that can go toe-to-toe against similar noise-pop juggernauts like the Wedding Present’s Seamonsters and Yo La Tengo’s Painful.
Like those two albums, many of Welcome to the Mid-West’s songs explore relationship woes with plainspoken reserve. The rhyme schemes are facile (“Everything is on fire/Falling apart at the seams/Everyone is a liar/Nothing is quite what it seems”), but the hooks do most of the talking anyway. “So You Think You’re Unhappy?” is the album’s first standout, a slice of heavenly electro-pop in which Tim mocks an ex for not having moved on yet from their breakup. “Why Wait” is the kind of song that Boyracer could knock out in their sleep, which is a compliment. Three verses and 100 seconds is all the band needs to get the song stuck in your head. The mosh-worthy three-chord grind of “Planes Fly Overhead”’s lives up to its name by sounding like it was recorded in an airplane hangar. The album isn’t all strum and drang, though. On the “Dear John” ballad “The Message,” Paula Knight’s cheesy organs and sweet voice are placed front and center. A few tracks later, Tim and Paula sing the love song “Stars” together: “Let’s go to live in where the stars shine, darling...I know you can’t stand it anymore.” His unsteady croon and her pitch-perfect sigh sound great together, and I’d like to hear them harmonize more on future Forest Giants material.
Since I received Welcome to the Mid-West in the mail, I’ve listened to it at least twice a day. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who reads this, whether you’re a Beatnik Filmstars fan or not. I wouldn’t have been as dismayed about the Filmstars’ hiatus as I was if I had known that I’d get TWO great bands out of it in the long run. This foot doesn’t taste too good in my mouth, but the Forest Giants certainly sound good to my ears!
IN LOVE WITH THESE TIMES
Right. Every review of the Forest Giants starts with mentioning the bands they used to be in. I'm gonna skirt that (hey, I once reviewed Tender Trap without referring to Talulah Gosh, and I love Talulah Gosh) because the reason you need to buy "Welcome To The Mid-West" is nothing to do with any other bands and everything to do with the fact it is the year's brightest reminder that guitars can still sound great and ache and echo and contort and dance and summon up all kinds of feelings to reflect love and life and pain. Yes, guitars, the same instruments used by Dirty Pretty Things, Kaiser Chiefs et al: I certainly needed reminding of it. And "WTTMW" is a dense, fuzzy er, forest of the things.
"I Don't Think You Understand" is the claustrophobic opener, and one of the heavier songs, a distorted vocal giving way into a pounding chorus. Its shadowy texture and booming bassline can't help but bring to mind Joy Division: ditto the kinda Hannett-ish laser effects that encircle the increasingly fractured singing, before everything culminates in a sorta pretty rolling haze of Fallish vocal barbs and six-string disarray. But the feel of the LP as a whole is perhaps better set by the succeeding tracks - more bitter lyrics, but duelling with jauntier hooks (such as the "Inbetween Days" motifs of "So You Think You're Unhappy ?"), and crafty, dogged New Order style guitar lines allowed freeish rein amidst yet more pummelling chords. Plus that gift that the Wedding Present always had, of lyrics you can empathise with and that trail off just at the right time, leaving instrumental swells to ram home the anger and regret. Witness the single "Planes Fly Overhead", which fits uber-snugly into the album's cross of noisy nihilism and peeping melodic optimism. We should have learned the lesson long ago that sometimes you need a few slabs of reverb and distortion to properly capture emotion, and that's probably the reason why some of the Mary Chain comparisons have got wheeled out.
Then comes "The Message", second best song ever of that name. Deviating frighteningly from the template, it glistens flirtatiously, all super-Sarah Records balladry: I can almost imagine it on that shimmering, mightily underrated Rosaries 7", although they wouldn't have added the keyboard glow and violin that make it sound like, ooh, Vinyl Japan recording artists Slumber, if you remember them. Paula's crystal-clear vocal starkly counterpoints Tim's fuzz-painted voice of the opening five tracks, and bridges the two halves of the album beautifully. It's blip not trend though, because then the shambling old-skool fuzz of "Wasted" (er, second best song ever of that name) even musically recalls peak-era Flatmates (shhh) or "Don't Talk Just Kiss"-era TWP (please remember that, to me, these are near-unbounded compliments). The next track is even better - for the guitars on "Closure" make me want to wander out into the street and hug random passers-by, even as the disgust and vituperation in the lyrics suggest quite the opposite response. And still they come - "Stars" picks out all the things that made "Darklands" so desolate yet beautiful and drapes them matter-of-factly around Dean Wareham's soul inside. Killing the pace of previous songs in favour of a well of shimmering guitars, the melodies are given all the excuse they need to jump up and around the longing and melancholy of the words. The guitars weave their way rapidly skyward once the vocal disperses. And then we drift into the slow burn of "Namesakes" - a very barren, rainsodden song, pointing fingers, upset, lyrically abrupt, musically delicate. Her new friends are so much plastic. The bass and keyboards compete to wrest the song from the simple jangle of guitar that underpins it all. They kind of get there in the end.
"In Sequence" saw them feeling their way, and had some great songs, but "Welcome To The Mid-West" attacks in formation, hints more at darkness, and well repays a few listens (it was on the fourth that it really hit me, somewhere in the middle of "Stars", on the top deck of the 37 as it bombed it down towards Battersea Rise). When a whole generation is giving up on guitar music because of what the NME is pushing these days, it's as well to have such moments of rediscovery.
Among the many underappreciated bands making better than just respectable records, count Britain’s The Forest Giants, whose last two offerings have been recognizable but hardly recognized – get it? What exactly is underappreciated? Try no significant listing on www.allmusic.com, a site that is just what it calls itself; little in the way of music rag press; most of what there is to know about them is out there on a their self-produced myspace page.
When 2005’s UFO Stories emerged as one of the best EP/singles that year, who noticed? The answer is relatively no one – that’s just a shame
Since the release of UFO Stories another, full album from Cherryade Records entitled Welcome To The Midwest only fulfilled the previous work’s promise. Again, understated, well-crafted with enough spit and polish, the Forest Giants were quietly making a resume for themselves based on spotless fuzz pop guitar craftsmanship, dour, smart mouthed lyrics and a welcome “other-worldly” charm. One listen to the former’s “Late Night In The Park” or the latter’s “So You Think That You’re Unhappy?” and the call-back to Galaxie 5000 or other of the 80’s and 90’s vintage British rock was clear.
Now comes 2007’s double-disc, Things To Do When We’re Bored (Lo-fi International) the latest, offering a glimpse at what these guys do in their free time – write great rock songs. Front man and guitarist Tim Rippington has a underlying fun quality to him – something that is sorely missing out there in serious land, and it’s on display just as much here as on previous releases. There are fine, less raucous tunes here, many culled from the especially fruitful Midwest recording sessions. Songs like, “At The Dog Track” and, “Goodbye/One For the Road” – or even the dark, “Car Crash” could fit anywhere on the catalog, and speak of Rippington’s almost overwhelming depth as a songwriter. While fuzz guitars and the like are the Giant’s strong suit, Things We Do proves it’s not their only trick. And if those are more to your liking, the second disc is filled with outtakes. As is almost always the case, these demo tracks are rougher, more organic, and just as revelatory when assessing the size of this band’s potential.
The crusade is clear, although somewhat flagging in its undertaking. The Forest Giants are an outfit that, without a doubt, needs to be recognized and perhaps relished. In a world of media saturation, it is a shame when the real good work fails to get wet. Keep on.