Review: Wank For Peace – Fail Forward

It’s getting closer to Christmas, so perhaps it’s apt that we’re bringing you something you could easily love or hate. Even the name of this band is liable to conjure up either feelings of humour and admiration, or a strong and lasting distaste. What is this band you ask? Wank For Peace. Childish, or amusing? Is the music going to good ol’ punk, or a lazy arrogant effort by people who think they’re more funny than they are? Don’t worry, we asked ourselves all of these questions as well, but if you like a bit of edgy punk, we think you’ll like this! Even if you don’t fancy a bit of hardcore punk, just be grateful, it’s not like we’re just giving you socks for Christmas, is it?!

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Wank For Peace, they’re not a band I had stumbled across either, but it seems they have become a household name on the European punk scene. The French quintet have used 2014 to burst out of the Euro-DIY punk community, bringing with them their new LP Fail Forward. Its 13 tracks never stray too far from the murky waters that separate good rustic DIY punk and what I usually call ‘shit masquerading as punk-rock’. For the first couple of listens I couldn’t decide whether I had found a new favourite, a hot-bed of hardcore, melodic punk rock, or whether I was taking more time to listen and review the record than had been put in to making it. So maybe the ambiguous feelings that stir when presented with their name is appropriate, but after a few more listens I can happily (and tentatively?) say that Fail Forward’s punk-laced and anger-fueled mayhem shouldn’t be simply dismissed!

Sure, you can find all of the clichés you might expect on a hardcore punk album, with backup chants galore and lyrics full of self-loathing. The drum pattern doesn’t change all that much throughout the whole album and the lead vocals do remind me of the rants and ravings of a chain-smoking drunk, but even while I’m typing this I know I’m being a little unfair … Opening track ‘Friends First’ crashes into life with screams out of insanity and hollow, grinding guitars. The distorted power chords shattering against the rocky, crunching vocals. It’s fast and sharp, like a dagger between the ribs, just as punk should be. ‘Heavy Shoulders’ showcases a nice bit of melodic punk, with catchy pop-punkish guitar riffs, but keeps the harsh edge, and ‘How High Can You Fall’ plays on angsty teenage feelings of desperation, which certainly works well with the vocals which are searing and rasping in equal parts. It just goes to show that sounding like a pissed off, drunk, chain-smoker can actually work well – I’m not even being sarcastic.

‘Was That What You Expected Kid’ is a track you would expect after hearing ‘Heavy Shoulders’, keeping some of the melodic features alive in the album with an anthemic chorus, while remaining a potent force of guitars smashing and shredding, the drums clattering and vocals cutting you to the bone. ‘Choices/Feedback’ and ‘Mea Culpa’ are the shortest and most obviously full-blooded punk songs on the album, and both sound like they’re racing to the end as quickly as they possibly can. They certainly have the potential for being great live songs by a band that loves to tour and tear shit up. ‘Five Steps To Nothing’ also strikes me as a force to behold in a Wank For Peace gig, with some awesome guitar parts and the ever-present trashy, hardcore growls.

So what does all of this say about Wank For Peace and Fail Forward? While it doesn’t do anything special to pull in new fans (it’s not unlike any of the hardcore punk you might hear elsewhere), it’s got to be worth a listen if this genre is the one for you. They don’t sound like they’re just copying other bands and despite the mixed feelings after the first few listens, they do sound like they’ve put a lot of effort into punching and kicking the album into shape, but it’s not going to blow your mind. Their live shows on the other hand, they might be something to behold …

3.5 out of 5 high fives!

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