I believe in forgiveness and redemption but if someone had told me 18 months ago that a member of one of the Worst Boy Bands In The World… Ever! would see the error of his ways, form a rock band and release a seriously impressive debut album, I’d have probably said sarcastically: “Yeah, right. And Charlie Simpson from Busted is gonna be the one to do it.”
Except, of course, that has happened, and any misery I feel at being outmanoeuvred by someone I formerly considered an enemy to musical righteousness, is massively outweighed by the elation at hearing a sinner transform, Saul-like, into a winner.
Quite simply, Grand Unification is a joyous listen from start to finish and that Fightstar have managed to mould an album that doesn’t disappoint after the teasing glory of their singles is an achievement in itself.
Where others are happy to be one-dimensional, Fightstar are not content unless a song moves fluidly through seemingly incongruous but ultimately coherent moods and musical dynamics. The interspersion of thoroughly heavy metal sections within the otherwise widescreen rock of Grand Unification Pt I and Sleep Well Tonight encapsulates this perfectly, while the vocal interchange between Alex Westaway’s falsetto and Simpson’s huskiness in Paint Your Target and the loud but uplifting Hazy Eyes is a trick that will continue to serve Fightstar well into the long future that this album deserves to secure for them.
Undoubtedly some will find Fightstar’s sense of adventure too perilous, but for the more enterprising, and for those who enjoy hearing a band incorporate their musical references without resorting to plagiarism, there is much to smile about.
For instance, the brooding, soaring Build An Army would have done either of the last two Deftones albums proud; Waste A Moment and Lost Like Tears In Rain remind you of how much Funeral For A Friend dropped the ball on their last effort; while the piano, strings and vocal that constitute the first two minutes of Grand Unification Pt II are pure Radiohead before-they-disappeared-up-their-own-ahem.
On the downside, Palahniuk’s Laughter – the song that sowed the seeds of Simpson’s salvation – is criminally absent, and Open Your Eyes is a little too schm-indie and pallid, especially when compared with the spacious, expansive, crescendo-ing Mono that follows it; but in truth, there’s very little to complain about.
And so endeth the lesson. Pop can turn to rock. Dark can be made light. Bad can become good. Time to go out and spread the good news…