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Funeral For A Friend

+ {The Secret Show}

Wales’ answer to the stream of screamo/emo combos to flood the market from the States (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, FALL OUT BOY, TAKING BACK SUNDAY, et al), FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND filled a void in post-millennium times between LOSTPROPHETS and fellow Bridgend boyos BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE.
Formed in south Wales around 2001/02, initial band name January Thirst was discarded when vocalist Matt “The Rat” Davies filled in for departee Michael Davies; the former gleaning the FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND moniker from a line in a song by Illinois-based emo-core act PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS. Further personnel upheaval came about when main guitarist Kris Roberts’ brother Kerry was superseded by Darran Smith (ex-Tripcage), while drummer Johnny Phillips, bassist Andi Morris and screamer Matthew Evans said their goodbyes just as the debut EP, `Between Order And Model’ was issued by Mighty Atom Records in August 2002. Matt, Kris and Darran would steady the ship (prior to the Infectious Records-financed `Four Ways To Scream Your Name’) by roping in drummer Ryan Richards and bassist/screamer Gareth Ellis-Davies.
Both EPs had received considerable interest from the music press, spurring on Atlantic Records subsidiary East West to boost the quintet’s chances of becoming the next big thing. On the back of two Top 20 singles, `Juneau’ and `She Drove Me To Daytime Television’, Funeral…’s debut set CASUALLY DRESSED & DEEP IN CONVERSATION (2003) {*7} followed a similar chart pattern; as did third 45, `Escape Artists Never Die’. Melding AT THE DRIVE-IN’s synthetic funk with TOOL’s dark metal offerings, FFAF sold-out their subsequent tour and were regularly featured during music slots on MTV2 after inking a deal with New Jersey’s independent Ferret label.
Employing virtually the same anthem-driven formula, the Welsh rawkers aimed high on the Terry Date co-produced sophomore set, HOURS (2005) {*6}. Running up a series of consecutive Top 40 hits: `Streetcar’, `Monsters’, `History’ and `Roses For The Dead’, FFAF’s strength lay in hook-line riffs and schizoid love-to-hate/hate-to-love lyrics. Later that year, Kerrang! stayed true to type by voting them 2005’s “Best British Band”. That aside, the group were known for classic covers; three come to mind: The RUTS’ `Babylon’s Burning’, U2’s `Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and THIN LIZZY’s `The Boys Are Back In Town’.
It was also at this point in time, Kris became known as Kris Coombs-Roberts, while Matt would become Matthew Davies-Kreye (respective marriages anyone?); a Warped tour and a Download Festival appearance racked up further support. To fill in time between FFAF activities, Matt busied himself with his one-and-only swerve into alt-country (on 2007’s IMPRESSIONIST ROAD MAP OF THE WEST {*4}) by way of 6-piece The SECRET SHOW.
Mirroring many Brit rock bands hugely successful on easy-access home-soil, America was unmoved by any groups with a penchant for snatching their Yankee dollar; Top 3 third set, TALES DON’T TELL THEMSELVES (2007) {*6}, a prime example of this anomaly. Adding alt-rock gloss sheen by hiring big-gun producer Gil Norton, ambitions were as high as Matt’s new-found BONO-esque larynx, while the shedding of their echoing screamo vibes alienated some hardcore fanbase. Still, in the dramatic `Into Oblivion (Reunion)’ and `Walk Away’ (both Top 40 entries), FFAF displayed a sense of maturity without totally losing their passion.
Switching labels from Atlantic to their own Join Us (Roadrunner in the States), a heavier brittle sound was found for 2008’s MEMORY AND HUMANITY {*5}. The days when the boost of a hit single might’ve helped album sales was now in a recession-hit, download-fixated pop world; `Waterfront Dance Club’ and `Kicking And Screaming’ suffering in its wake.
Finding yet another fresh label, this time at Distiller Records, 2011’s WELCOME HOME ARMAGEDDON {*6} was a slight improvement on their previous effort. Without Darran (replaced by Gavin Burrough) and Gareth (replaced by Richard Boucher), Matt and Co had reached back in time to find their hook-line hardcore and/or sentimental screamo roots. Nonetheless, something seemed to be missing from songs that played by-numbers, only really `Broken Foundation’, `Sixteen’ and `Front Seats To The End Of The World’ broke the mould; Pat Lundy would now be installed as new drummer over Richards.
Clocking in at a mere half-hour, sixth album CONDUIT (2013) {*6} – like its predecessor – also fell short of a Top 30 place; their anthemic chorus lines fighting with straight-laced emo-mosh. Only the likes of `Best Friends And `Hospital Beds’ and `High Castles’ raised the bar.
Expectations might’ve been high for 2015’s CHAPTER & VERSE {*6}, but its lowly Top 50 position belied the fact that FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND were now musically six feet under. Tracks selected by faithful fans on the internet, the ferocious beats of `1%’, `You’ve Got A Bad Case Of The Religions’ and the doom-laden `The Jade Tree Years Were My Best’ came up to scratch for non-disciples.
© MC Strong 2004-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Jan2015

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