[sic] Magazine

For Against – Never Been

Some records remind us of certain times in our own lives, adolescence in particular. Others evoke images of other places, conjuring their own landscapes, colours, sights, smells and even meteorology. For Against hail from Lincoln, Nebraska and have always had this multi-sensory aspect to their music. For the uninitiated their style is a superior take on the minimalist, post-punk thing, albeit with the dream-pop leanings you might expect from a band of their period. In the late 80’s they delivered the seminal albums Echelons and December. In 2008 they were re-united with founder guitarist Harry Dingman III and gifted their followers with the excellent Shade Side Sunny Side, a kind of comeback album from a band who’d never actually been away.

In fact, I thought of For Against recently. Rather appropriately it was back at the start of winter. I was attending Factory Night in Brussels and at one point it occurred to me how good it would have been if For Against had been there. The tie-in with Section 25 is the clearest reference point of course. (They covered ‘Friendly Fires’) But even that aside, I just think that For Against are a Factory band in spirit. A few days after Factory Night, Never Been landed in my mailbox. The ‘follow-up’ to the ‘comeback’… Could Never Been live up to the standards of its predecessor?

Or surpass it?

I’ve seen For Against’s music described elsewhere as “dirgescapes” which has always been a little misleading in my opinion. Never Been makes a total mockery of that particular tag. Here any dirges are junked in favour of lush, textural songs. Pianos are as eloquent as the guitars. All this makes for a different sort of beauty. Where previously For Against have put me in mind of Comsat Angels and The Chameleons, the effect on Never Been is more akin to The Church or The Triffids. Not that the music leans particularly towards psychedelia. It’s just somehow cleaner, lighter sounding and more melodic.

Never Been?

They were never a Factory band of course but it is apt that their current label is Words On Music. For Against do exactly that. They position their words upon their music. They juxtapose desperate, barren tales with optimistic tunes. It is wonderful.

It is terrible.

What For Against have learned, perhaps better than any of their peers, is how to contrast light and dark tones. The keys and strings may paint pictures of late springtime but the lyrics plunge us back into the harsh depths of winter. These are deeply personal songs and I almost feel voyeuristic listening in. I hope that Jeff Runnings lyrics are not autobiographical because if they are, the poor man is clearly trapped in his own personal hell. These words speak to me of a dysfunctional marriage where the only thing worse than a messy, painful break-up is the stifling inertia of staying together.

When ‘The Tenebrists’ reprises opening track ‘Sameness’ it is already abundantly clear Never Been is For Against’s greatest album. We keep saying so and they keep proving us right, yet wrong by making something better. And if albums are like places, we’re only passing through. Like a car or train journey, where you zip through an unfamiliar town in less than ten minutes – you glimpse it. You get a flavour. But that place was always there before you ever arrived and it’s still there as you journey onwards, away from it. That world, that music, those lives – they’re still there.

Never Been?
Always been.



Shade side Sunny side