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For Against - Coalesced

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Artist: For Against

Album: Coalesced

Label: Words On Music

Review date: Jan. 19, 2004

Like most everyone who knows of Lincoln, Nebraska’s For Against, I’m mystified as to why every college-town neurotic on the globe doesn’t cream trou when the band drops a new dispatch. Maybe because it happens so rarely. Maybe because FA lacks any psychedelic pretensions whatsoever, which perhaps puts off the Donnie Darko “dream pop” crowd that still listens to the Church. Maybe because they don’t speak in riddles or withhold sensitivity the way R.E.M. does, and a lot of their potential fans are masochists who crave duplicity. Maybe because the singer can sing.

Listening to Coalesced, the band’s most sophisticated record to date, I still couldn’t tell you. Remember the Ocean Blue? Let’s Active, anyone? Remember when “college rock” entailed a certain classy subtlety? What are you waiting for? For Against is probably the classiest li’l jangle-pop unit to ever even visit Nebraska.

For Against braintrust Jeffery Runnings has a penchant for writing songs that pass through stages more than verses and choruses: Opalescent hooks emerge right and left and never repeat themselves. Coalesced boasts straighter pop ditties than before, but still works uncommonly roundabout patterns. The obvious hit single “So Long” has a bridge that sounds like a chorus and then swells to a for-real chorus that soars away from the initial hook. “Fuel” mopes through a glorious couple of vocal melodies before shifting up; in part two of three, Runnings repeats the haunting catchphrase “Intangible things don’t mean that much / Isn’t that saaaad?” over the album’s most driving bass line. After that, the climax seems unnecessary.

Runnings revels in rotten small-town relationships. “Medication” brags that “I’m nobody’s type / And lately I don’t mind” before inviting a paramour to experience “the kind of love that transcends time” and might, maybe just transcend point-blank self-loathing. Over the chilly title track, he sings “I wander into badly-lit situations / I get stung / I don’t know why / The things I hide / They have no value / But now I’m afraid to care.” The song is a tribute to that on-again-off-again ex who won’t go away, and who you still desire just because that’s easier than getting into something new. “Through time and test / We’ve coalesced / There’s nothing we can do... I still love you best / I don’t want to be without you.” ‘Cause being without you sucks almost as much as being with you. As a man who recently endured a protracted breakup, I’m relieved that the closer “Love You” is an instrumental.

By Emerson Dameron

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