Thursday, July 25, 2013
Does It Hold Up?: The Format's Intervention and Lullabies (2003)
From TV to radio, people are raving about this band called fun. Moms, grandmas, tweens, Lena Dunham, everyone seems to be talking about this band. That "We are Young" song is inescapable. My Facebook Newsfeed blew up during their two night stint at Hudson River Park (where they were supported by Tegan & Sara, who I adore).
(Note: I happen to enjoy Aim and Ignite. I have not heard this latest album.)
Every time I hear a fun. song I think of The Format - a little band from the early 2000s fronted by Nate Ruess (currently lead singer of fun.). In 2003, Ruess and Sam Means released Intervention and Lullabies. I fell in love with this album during 2004's Skate and Surf Fest, in Asbury Park, NJ. I remember a diminutive Ruess singing without his shoes on, while Means backed him out on acoustic guitar. It was very memorable as a 17 year old.
So I thought in honor of fun's recent success, I'd do a re-listen of Interventions and Lullabies and share my thoughts.
Here we go! Time to press play!
Ok. This is already 10x better than "We are Young." The thing I always liked about The Format was their album to fuse bouncy melodies with largely depressing song lyrics. The melodies, harmonies, and light drum beats are coupled with lyrics about alienation, friendship, and family. Its bitter without being cynical.
Lyrics like "When I'm with you/ there's no point in breathing" (from "Tie the Rope") sum-up the "I love you" and then "I hate you" sentiment (Only now am I reminded of that "When I'm with you/ I feel like I could die/ and that would be all right" lyric from 3EB's "Semi-Charmed Life").
Every song is about the tension of relationships (romantic, friendship, family). "Tune Out" seems to be about problem avoidance. "A Mess to be Made" was always a stand-out track. It really highlights the struggles of being a youth who cannot seem to do anything right. It has tint of banjo twang, a very popular device these days.
"On Your Porch" is an epicly-slow and heartbreaking song about family struggles and your past. It starts out quiet, like an Iron & Wine song, and then builds. Vocally, Ruess starts out alone and then is joined by Means; Means' guitar is the common thread. It still kills me.
As this song ends, its hard not to feel like an emotional wreck. But then, joy comes back for "Sore Thumb," another bouncy song about failed relationships.
Why is Ruess so angry! Why has every girl (or friend) been a total disappointment! I feel like a teenage fan-girl who just wants answers!
Conclusion: This album absolutely holds up. There are many different types of songs on the album and each of them seamlessly blend into one another. There are slow ballads ("On Your Porch" and "A Save Situation") and clap-along singles ("The First Single" and "Wait Wait Wait"). All 12 songs are pretty great. Many albums of the 2000s featured those in-between chorus breakdowns. This album is no different. The lyrical themes still resonate.
Maybe not much has changed since 2002. And maybe I'm OK with that.