Falling Still: Falling Still (2013)

Bio (from fallingstill.com):
It’s been a long, strange journey for Los Angeles-based trio Falling Still, and it shows in their unpredictable brand of rock and roll. Originally from Akron, Ohio, the three childhood friends have formed a powerful musical bond that cannot be shaken. The psychedelic screams of Eric’s guitar, the ominous barrage of Brett’s bass, and the primal rage of Jeremy’s drums inhabit a brave new world that’s altogether familiar and accessible. Falling Still’s live show is an energetic feast of sound, lights, and furious motion. Determined to entertain at all costs, a sweaty and drunken good time is found by all who seek it. And most who don’t.

Musicians:
Eric Podnar (Vocals / Guitar), Brett Hamilton (Bass / Vocals), Jeremy Cull (Drums)

Falling Still’s self-titled EP caught my attention on the opening lyric: “If you stay we will fornicate and fight / In my dark mind that sounds like it’s all right.”  These two lines tell you so much about what the next twenty minutes of rock are going to go: smart, dark, off-centered, and a with a twist of dark humor.  Falling Still has no problem with swearing, Podnar could have just opened the EP with “if you stay we will fuck and fight,” but it doesn’t have the sheen that fornicate brings to the table, and it doesn’t have the playfulness.  That’s a lot of what impressed me with FALLING STILL: foreboding tomfoolery, and that’s a really awesome little combination of things.  It’s on display in full force in “Stupid Girl,” where Podnar sings “Stupid girl, you have fallen into a quite constrictive decay / but hey, you’ve got a cute face.”  Love it.

Falling Still: Jeremy Cull, Eric Podnar, Brett Hamilton
Falling Still: Jeremy Cull, Eric Podnar, Brett Hamilton

In addition to the fun, funky lyrics, these guys make some kick-ass rock.  FALLING STILL is a quick 20 ½ minutes long, and it never drags; every track pulls its weight and every track deserves its place on this EP.  Their style is somewhat hard for me to classify.  Party bar rock?  I don’t know exactly what you would call what they do: it’s entertaining hard rock without going super heavy, it’s fast without getting too aggro, and it’s fun.  That’s the best word for it: fun.  Their music at times reminds me of a less-serious Nirvana or maybe earlier Foo Fighters, with a dash of what may be some Stray Cats, a little of something heavier (Helmet? Fugazi?), and then some other more varied influences in there I just can’t quite put my finger on.  One thing I can say is that all three of these guys are talented musicians.  Never is there a point where anyone’s ego takes over with a supercharged solo that blows the walls off of the temple of rock-dom, but everyone is solid, and no one just falls back on boring three-power-chord progressions to build a song around.

The van is coming for you.
The van is coming for you.

I am really surprised to be able to say that there is not one song on this EP that I didn’t enjoy.  The opening track, “If U Stay,” is straightforward rock with the dark lyrical component that I enjoyed a lot.  This track would work well in a movie or as a radio single on modern rock radio (do they still do that?  I haven’t listened to the radio in years… I’m sure there’s a channel on satellite radio that this would fit perfect for), and would get Falling Still a little more attention.  “Stupid Girl” is a little more laid-back musically, but lyrically is quite a bit heavier, and is a really enjoyable track to take the time to really listen to.  “Laid To Waste” more rocking than it’s predecessor, and opens with the classic line (again backing my theory that these guys are Party Bar Rock) “Motherfuck me I’m still drunk / I just woke up in hell again.”  “Thin Lizzy” drops the heavier content in place of a more mellow, almost 50’s or 60’s vibe in its main guitar riff, and it’s just a nice little track that would be fun to dance to; that’s not to say that Falling Still doesn’t rock on this one, as the track builds up to a heavier – but still danceable – bridge and gets a bit heavier on the outro.  “Wolves” is a groove heavy song that would work in a lot of places, a commercial (if Falling Still wanted to go that way), a movie, or of course out at the bar.  The final track is a bit different than FALLING STILL as a whole, “Hollywood Forever” builds almost from a ballad like riff onto its self with more and more intensity until it finally crescendos towards the last minute of the song with one of my favorite lyrics of the album.  Just to again point out the intelligence with which the words are chosen, when was the last time you head the word “grimoire” dropped in a rock song?

Falling Still out in the desert and coming soon to your earholes.
Beware the silhouettes of Falling Still.

Overall, I really enjoyed FALLING STILL.  It was full of intelligent, darkly humorous lyrics and kick-ass rock to accompany them.  The songs make you want to get up and party, until you catch some of the deep thoughts expressed, then you want to sit down with a scotch and a notepad and dissect truly what is going on (or at least, I did).  This is an EP that will have residency in my iPhone for a long time to come.  They may say they are falling, but Falling Still has no place to go but up.

Overall 8.5 / 10

FALLING STILL will be released 2/26/2013

FALLING STILL site: http://fallingstill.com

Falling Still: Falling Still EP (2013)
Falling Still: Falling Still EP (2013)

As an added bonus, Falling Still has had a few music videos directed by none other than Trent Haaga, whose movie CHOP is so far the only movie that I’ve given a 10 out of 10 (review here).  So let’s take a quick look at these too!

I AM THE DR

This is a track from Falling Still’s album “Don’t Kick The Whiskey,” and musically it again fits the mold: fun, kick-ass rock that would be great in front of a crowd.  In the video, that crowd is what appears to be a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque cult that has kidnapped the band for the amusement of their leader.  In enters a special forces style group to seemingly liberate the hostages, but as we find in the end, Trent likes to kill Falling Still (a theme that will be repeated).  The Special Forces group executes everyone (everyone? EVERYONE!), and in a M. Night Shyamalan worthy twist, we find that the military men are actually (gasp!) Falling Still!

The production design on this video, for being a low budget video for a low-budget band, was amazing.  You’ve got a cast of twenty to thirty post-apocalyptic punks all decked out in the accoutrement befitting them, as well as a end-of-the-world stage set up which is also just too cool.  Add to this the very real special forces group and guns, and the production design on this video is just leaps and bound above what should be expected for something on this level, and would be above what I would expect if it weren’t for the fact that it was Trent Haaga.  The video is also crisp HD and just looks really nice, and is shot with visually pleasing composition and edited together in a way that keeps the plot of the video moving along while the song does the same.  Fun video.


IF U STAY

Here’s a simple concept done well.  This time there’s not a huge cast of extras or a ton of production design to wrestle with, there’s no guns or squibs or effects, there’s just Falling Still, a van, and some rock.  The video itself is pretty much the van driving around L.A. and picking up the members of the band, who then join into the rock spectacle going on in the back, supplemented by some shots outside of the van that may or may not include rocking.  Simple.  But yet this simple set up makes for a very entertaining video, through a combination of fun “set” design (I love the inside of that van), great visual composition, and great editing.

The thing that really stuck out to me was the way in which the video was shot; for a production that mostly took place in a very, VERY confined space, Haaga does a damned fine job of finding a variety of interesting places to put the camera, and interesting ways to present the material.  There are shots down guitar necks, into disco balls, full band shots, close-ups, and medium shots, all within a cargo van.  That’s amazing.  Also, Haaga uses kinetic energy in the shots to go along with the build up of the music to help add to the excitement of the video, which also builds the overall feeling of IF U STAY.  Just another solid piece of filmmaking.

STUPID GIRL

This one may be my favorite of the three. This video is such a great compliment to the dark lyrics I mentioned earlier in my review of the EP.  On the production scale, it is again on the lighter end; the vast majority of the video is just a girl and a guy (Podnar) who are dating and decide to go back to her place.  Knowing Haaga’s work and sensibilities, I knew this wouldn’t be that simple, and right from the beginning I got a bit of an AUDITION vibe from it, but the payoff was much cooler than that!

The video seems straight forward for the half of its running time: boy and girl meet in a record store, boy and girl hang out, boy and girl flirt, boy and girl go back to her place.  Then we get to the “I don’t think this girl is quite right in the head” bit, as we start to get flashes into her psyche.  She is alone in a hallway full of doors (could this be a metaphor for the choices she is making?), cracking up, not looking as cute and sweet as she was before.  In the end we find she is a killer, and has murdered the entire band (see, I told you this would be a theme) to make her own puppet show!  Awesome.  Trent’s a sick man, but a very talented sick man, and Falling Still has done well to align themselves with him.  Together they will, as they said back in Trent’s old Troma days, “make some art!”

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