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Maybe This Christmas Tree
Unwritten Law "Here's to the Mourning"
Kreator "Enemy of God"
Isidore (Brash)
In Battle "Welcome to the Battlefield"
Far "Water & Solutions"
Kukl "The Eye," "Holidays in Europe"
The Arcade Fire "Funeral"
Macha "Forget Tomorrow"
Authority Zero "Andiamo"


Far "Water & Solutions"

This one’s special. Not only cuz Water & Solutions was the first album I reviewed for Lollipop, but cuz its initial arrival in ’98 was highly-anticipated by my then-picture perfect romantic relationship. Allow me to get a bit personal here (cuz, hell, I hardly ever do in my usual reviews, and this one really hits home… read further)…

Far’s debut, Tin Cans With Strings to You, had burrowed underneath my (and my then-girlfriend’s) skin during ’96. Its songs held deep, religious meaning to us, which obviously meant that we were frothing at the mouth the moment Water & Solutions was announced (fun fact: Happy Walters, the owner of Immortal Records, was the neighbor of my then-girlfriend’s uncle. Nice connection to have: we were given advances MONTHS before the release). Just prior to its release, the band did a short East Coast run with Life Of Agony (the version with asswipe-from-Ugly Kid Joe on vocals, no less), selling copies of an EP entitled Soon to hold fans over. At the Providence, RI stop, as Far took the stage with “Bury White,” I saw a demigod in vocalist/guitarist Jonah Matranga. The passion with which he moved – not to mention sang with – drove spikes through my consciousness that I still treasure to this day. No one in the audience knew who they were or gave a shit, but for 30 minutes they were a revelation to me and the girl I loved. It was as if we were watching the manifestation of our relationship’s intensity serenade back to us. That night, Far became more than a band to us… they became the representation of our union.

When Water & Solutions came out, it was as if I was being paid to promote it. I spread its gospel to everyone everywhere, whether or not the public wanted to hear it. The mainstream never picked up, but then again they never do, do they? My girl and I were more than content with having Water & Solutions all to ourselves, evening after evening soaking up the raw pain of tracks such as “Another Way Out,” “Really Here,” and “I Like It.” Compositionally, drummer Chris Robyn and guitarist Shaun Lopez naturally understood how to construct groove-oriented songs, tempering their dangerous accessibility with a fragile vulnerability (thanks in no small part to Matranga’s delivery) to create a rare combination of heavy rock that not only dropped, but felt like emotional purging with every dip. Water & Solutions made sense in every way… it threw our bodies to the beat like rag dolls, but also gave its shoulder for us to cry on.

To support the album, Far toured through the Northeast a few times, first with Incubus and then on a self-booked trek with Crumb (another unsung secret). On that last journey, the parallels between the band and my relationship were more than eerily similar. Both parties were on their last legs, made all the more apparent when the band I was in at the time agreed to book/play four of those Northeast shows. In those four nights, I witnessed the Far members as detached, defeated individuals; Matranga’s disgusting, self-promoting behavior toward fans (especially females); and the willingness of my lover to eat up all of this man’s come-ons. At the end of it, bassist/backup vocalist John Gutenberger quit the band, I lost respect for one of my heroes, and two people’s idealized college romance crawled to its end.

But I never let go of Water & Solutions. How could I, when it embodies such a significant era of my life? Even now, six years later, as Far’s ex-members embarrass themselves in horrible new bands (not counting Milwaukee and Gratitude; the latter more cuz of Mark “Crumb” than Jonah), I can’t deny its power. Watching the bonus DVD that came with this reissue, I am reminded of how massive their outpouring was onstage: enough to make me forget how Jonah used that “Think Like a Girl” sticker on his guitar to seduce gullible females. Cuz, when all is said and done, what else really matters aside from what was created? Bands break up, lovers get their hearts broken, time turns young/impressionable minds into jaded cynics (heh heh)… but the album that Water & Solutions is will never change. May it document your first love as well.


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