I’d had a few (many) beers when I bought a vinyl copy of The Fire Is Gone, the Midnight Faces’ latest album, from the duo’s touring drummer at the merch booth in the lobby of the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The band was opening for Electric Youth and I’d arrived there too early before the show started, so I took too much advantage of the happy-hour discount on IPAs.
Before the show I had a couple happy-hour beers and free pizza at the Charleston, where I talked with an actor from Queens who was nervously inhaling his fifth gin and tonic before hanging out with a family friend. His mother was forcing him to see her for some reason.
After I talked to the bartender too long about Italians Do It Better, and after Midnight Faces and Electric Youth played excellent sets, I ended up talking to the Midnight Faces drummer about New Order and, yes, IDIB. I quickly felt a bit like it was time for me to get the hell home. A subway ride from Brooklyn to Harlem takes a fairly long time. I think it took me a good 90 minutes that night.
I bought the record without much of a thought. It was only $15 and the guys seemed like nice dudes. I didn’t know anything about them, other than that the drummer knows some guy who knows a guy I work with at my day job. And I forgot about the album for a couple weeks until sometime after Thanksgiving, when I uncovered it while looking for a Vial of Sound record.
I barely remembered what Midnight Faces sounded like, although I recalled they were a lot louder than Electric Youth. At least in that live setting, it seemed like an odd pairing. I didn’t remember even enjoying the band, but I paid money for this thing and, again, they seemed like nice guys. So I put it on, and holy shit is this record good.
The two opening songs, “Wake Me” and “Over Again,” recall the most beautiful elements of New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies and Low-Life. On “Wake Me,” especially, the multi-instrumentalist Matthew Doty paints an ethereal mist of synthesizers and jangly guitar leads over a steady, pulsating beat. Combined with singer Phil Stancil’s soothing and lazy Tom Pettyesque vocals, the arrangement creates a comfortingly laid-back and melodic start to a beautiful album that pays homage to Factory Records in a way Bloc Party should have tried post-Intimacy.
Speaking of the former Bloc Party (RIP, you complex and dysfunctional band), it was that English band that Midnight Faces seemed to invoke when they were opening for Electric Youth. On the new album, there’s nothing so loud or intense. Obviously, a touring drummer will liven things up a bit, and rightfully so, but it’s like witnessing the work of two different bands.
“Shadows” has sprinkling pianos, melodic, chorused guitar leads and a Devonte Hynes-inspired backbeat, and the pretty “Hold Tight” comes off as more than a nod to M83. They stick to the tempered excitement that appears to be the theme of the album.
The jangly, mid-tempo C86 homage of “This Time,” shows that the Midnight Faces did not restrain their study of England’s 1980s post-punk movement to Factory Records.
Overall, I’d say I’m pretty glad I went looking for that Vial of Sound record.