Fading dreams, disillusionment and a flicker of hope on Fury’s latest.
Mick Fury’s new album ‘1981-1996’ begins with ‘The Perception’, a spoken word track with two presumably stereotypical right-wing blockheads pontificating over each other about millennial laziness and weakness. The press materials for the album focus on this aspect, the ire directed toward the “most open-hearted, hard working-for-beans, thoughtful generation yet”, who get the blame for the errors of previous generations, and have had the American Dream snatched away from them. However, the album overall grapples more broadly with themes of disillusionment, disappointment and dreams fizzling out under the weight of economic strain; the lyrics deal with youthful hope fading to adult ennui as one gets wise to society’s injustices. These themes are introduced in album’s de facto first track ‘Bright Eyed Dumb Kid’. The aesthetic is a blend of 90s country and the early-00s mainstream grunge revival – lots of deep acoustic riffing, distorted power chords and echoey harmonics.
‘Prayers’ and ‘Can’t Let Go’ are almost a companion set, offering two perspectives on a life dedicated to music and the pleasures and hardships this brings. ‘Prayers’ draws comparisons between making and performing music and liturgical practices: “My vinyl is my bible, my pulpit is the stage, lyrics are my gospel, ‘til my judgement day”. In contrast, ‘Can’t Let Go’ presents the other side of the coin, the difficulties of peripatetic touring life over alternating muted acoustic verses and echoing anthemic choruses: “you’re in between lives and in between towns, you gotta go the very next day/ your closet is a suitcase, your friends and family ghosts/ you’re desperately searching for something, even that seems to come and go”. The two tracks explore the struggle of desperately trying to find meaning and purpose, to put the effort into a passion, when the world is wearing you down.
The theme of toiling and searching, in stark contrast to the idling Fury feels his generation are unfairly characterised by, is also explored on mid-tempo rocker ‘Broken Highway‘. The track unfurls like a soundtrack to dusty, dusky, apocalyptic desert landscape scene – think lightning-bolts slicing the dark red sky as a streamlined sportscar speeds toward the horizon. A speedy cover of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Up?’, that never achieves the style or import of the original, further leans into the theme of searching and being disappointed at what one discovers.
One of the album’s best songs is ‘State of the Union’, a toe-tapping rock’n’roll lament about the American Dream crumbing under the weight of debt, depression and addiction. Fury reels off a series of vignettes displaying the desperately sad state of the majority of people in towns and cities across America – worn down, struggling to afford education, healthcare, recreation and ending up medicated, sinking and dying. Although the focus is particularly American, the struggles and hopelessness expressed are universal issues.
There are moments of hope on what is overall quite a downbeat album – hope for revolution and change: “Why should I care when I know I won’t be around? Well I want to leave it better than I found it” sings Fury on ‘Burnin’ It Down’, drawing out the final ‘it’ into a rattling rallying cry.
Unfortunately, despite the earnestness with which Fury deals with the album’s subject matter, it tends to fall a bit flat, with different tracks tending toward re-treading the same ground rather than exploring an issue from a different angle. Also, although the are a number of hummable tunes here, and there’s no denying Fury is blessed with a powerful and rich baritone, the production sounds a little overdone and samey, causing tracks to blur into one another. The album’s sentiment will no doubt resonate with many at this moment in time, yet the manner in which it is explored fails to make ‘1981-1996‘ stand out.