The neo-traditionalist school of dark post-punk that’s been holding sway for decades now can be a capricious thing. It’s a style that, if softened and presented with the right hooks, can spell crossover success but can just as quickly be limited to smoke-filled gray-market spaces if the bass or vocals tilt too much towards, say, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s doomed aggression. The line between canny homage and derivative rehashing can be just as thin. Oakland’s Fearing are the latest act to offer their variation on this familiar theme with Shadow.
After a pair of EPs which were populated by turgid and overtly goth numbers, Fearing have pepped things up a bit for their first LP. Some space, if not colour, is woven in between the gloom. Proper opener “Catacombs” sounds like the sort of portentous statement of arrival bands of this ilk often aim for (think Night Sins, Ritual Howls, Soft Kill), though there’s a snotty disaffection to the lyrics that offsets the formal brooding of the bass and guitar interplay (“my life’s a joke, I stay at home and laugh”).
While the streamlined rockers Shadow uses to get its broader strokes across are immediate enough and likely good fun in a live setting, they’re not terribly memorable on record. I’m hard pressed to be able to be able to hum “Sherbert” or “Good Talks” despite numerous passes through the LP. Far more enjoyable are the languid and relaxed moments of the record, in which tunes like “The Push” and “Glow” usher just enough dream-pop and shoegaze into the mix to allow the darkness to actually take on some shape and texture.
Even when it’s not connecting compositionally, Shadow manages to be easy enough to listen to: its conversance with the core markers and sounds of this sort of fare is enough to paper over some thinner songs. When they slow things down and use a more wistful tone, though, Fearing do show a good amount of promise. Here’s hoping that that side of the band gets some more shine in the future.