Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Fantastic Planet" by Failure


Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Failure
Title: Fantastic Planet
Released: 1996
Genre: space rock


In the late 90s rock was being eclipsed by the bubblegum pop explosion. Grunge was fading from radio to make room for nu-metal and power pop acts like Blink-182. But there were a handful of weirder songs that slipped through into mainstream rock radio that felt like harbingers of an experimental direction that grunge might have explored if it only had a little more time. Stuff like Incubus' Make Yourself or Elwood's rap-rock reworking of Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown. Another one of these what-the-hell-did-I-just-hear gems was Failure's Stuck On You, from their sci-fi epic Fantastic Planet. It was nerd-voice crooning angst over guitars that alternately crunched and keened. It was like Weezer, but less polished and less immediately accessible. This was an act that aspired to be Pink Floyd, not Buddy Holly. It sounded like Nerf Herder, if they'd decided to go artsy-nerdy instead of just nerdy.

Clocking in at 68 minutes, Fantastic Planet is an ambitious record, spanning seventeen tracks, including a number of instrumental segues. The opening riff of album starter Saturday Savior sets the tone perfectly. It's crunchy riff-rock, but songwriters Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards are great at picking an unexpected chord. Riffs never resolve where you expect them to, but they also never sound incomplete or off. Pillowhead and Smoking Umbrellas are bass-forward songs that move along at a thunderous clip. The album actually banks its best songs for the back half, with tunes like Pitiful, Leo, and the excellent/cacophonous The Nurse Who Loved Me. The lead single from this album, Stuck On You, is the third song from the end. And it closes strong with Daylight, whose final notes harken back to the Saturday Savior intro.

It's a dense record with some indelible hooks and a ton of atmosphere. It rewards re-listening and is arguably one of the truly under-appreciated records of the 90s.

Further Listening: I don't know much else from this band, but one of its members has appeared on this list twice already, sort of. After the band split in 1997, Troy Van Leeuwen (who joined the band to tour this album) went on join to A Perfect Circle (who also covered this album's The Nurse Who Loved Me on their album Thirteenth Step) for a few years and then joined Queens Of The Stone Age for their Songs For The Deaf tour and has been with them ever since.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Albums

Hello all!

In an attempt to keep the old blog from atrophying, I'm going to try out a project a friend of mine did a few years ago and spend the year writing about some of my favorite albums. So over the next 50 weeks, you can expect a couple entries a week until we get to 100. Or until I run out of steam and give up. Whichever comes first.

The only rule I'm giving myself here is to limit things to one album per artist. If that would preclude other favorite albums from making the list, I'll note it, but I don't want the list to be completely overrun by Radiohead and the Beatles. I'm going to start at the top of the list (that is, with my #1 favorite), but the ordering is not super rigorous--especially beyond the first twenty or so.

I'll put a master list on a page that's easily accessible from the front and I'll probably throw in some supplemental stuff, like albums I loved as a child but can't really listen to anymore for various reasons or albums …

"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3)…

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it.

I get it now.

I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat betwee…