By: Hope Ankney
“Hoping to ruin your day, one song at a time” is a featured text in the about section of Faux/Fox’s Facebook page, and it seems to be the perfect summation of the Pensacola trio. Self-proclaimed as being “Death Blues, No-core,” the lively and sarcastic group live up to their niche genre with the release of their project Congratulations. Fueled by a hodge-podge of thrashing instrumentals, soulful vocals, and obscure lyricism, the record gives an eclectic perspective into what Faux/Fox is capable of.
It’s rare, in the modern world, to stumble upon music that is appreciated more for its lyrical undertones than its musical counterpart, but the abstract poetry that trails throughout Congratulations almost acts in protest. It feels as though the group has challenged the normalized shallows of current art with a megaphone blasting their instrumentals and freshly painted signs displaying their lyrics. Shrouded in the broodiness of a cynical mind, the record bounces between tones but relies on a theme of mortality. Some tracks reflect the darkening of a life both in content and in sound while others feel like a revival through the quick-paced guitars and pounding percussion. It’s almost an unspoken rule to revisit the project multiple times to capture its rawest essence.
The record doesn’t waste time indulging the topics one usually avoids in conversation. It tackles Faux/Fox’s views on religion and the afterlife in the slow-burning “Holiest Ghost.” If anything, the opening track encompasses the group’s Death Blues’ roots as the vocals warble over a burly composition, detailing how life should hold the pen over us instead of the pages of belief. The song stresses that we are all the same, and that that specific mantra should be taught from our first breath to our last. Nothing prepares the listener for the continued brashness across the rest of the EP as the chorus: “We believe good has won, and all of God’s people sing along. But, brother, I’m not bought or sold when you sing of your holiest ghost” does.
“Plane Crash Blues Pt. II” offers a more delicate side to Congratulations with a smoother vocal performance and a bold drum beat that follow much of the track. The far reaches of the lyricism is subjective to the listener, but it seems to play off the aura of insignificance. The straining words of being “nameless and faceless with the strip malls and churches” and feeling like “a plane crash that will never make the news” resonates more with the listener as the song progresses. The stuttering breakdown near the latter half reflects the emotional release of someone who has held this bleak outlook in too long. Regardless, “Plane Crash Blues Pt. II” does present some beautiful lines like the bridge, “unending change makes us masters of the past that long look back, and at some point we’re only lateral travelers” that is sung with the softest inflection.
Throughout the rest of Faux/Fox’s Congratulations, the pop-punk flare of “Everything is Tragic” feels out of place in relation to the rest of the EP, but it does get appreciation for being the sole track with fast-paced guitars and startling percussions. “Hooves & Horns” comes from a different direction, being stripped back and overtly emotional in delivery. Most of the song sounds like it is gritted through clenched teeth, almost relying on spoken-word instead of melody to drive it. “I Played the Wolf” has a twangy-rock, extended intro with the song developing into a gritty arrangement. The hook is infectious, having one humming its melody long after the record’s end. The track almost acts as a think-piece as the fading lyrics proclaim, “We are nothing but wide-eyed and starless,” having the listener debate whether they are, too, a part of the starless in the philosophical obscurity of the EP.
“Busy Signals” is the most intriguing and complex pieces on the record, featuring the peak of Faux/Fox’s talent with obscure lyrical symbolism and fueling instrumentals that stutter to a blazing climax. The lead singer’s voice shifts to an apologetic tone throughout the track as it begs and tenses over the subject matter. Being a dark and deeply emotional moment on Congratulations, the group details desperation and rejection in the face of religion, utilizing the symbolism of an unanswered phone line to reach Heaven. “Busy Signals” seems to have been written from the loneliness of endless bottles of booze and recycled hotel rooms, crying out to God for direction and answers. The interaction ends with whispering into silence as Heaven echoes a dial tone, unavailable – the small voice in their head telling them that the number has always been inactive. Hitting too close to the heart, even underneath the metaphorically-drenched layers of the song, it makes one feel closer, if not at home, when hearing the brood of their desperate pleas with the Christian God, themselves, be reinforced by Faux/Fox.
Underneath the sarcastic and lively presence of Faux/Fox, Congratulations is a project that showcases the philosophy and complexity they are capable of in their music. Reading more like a poet’s journal set to melody, the conversations had throughout the EP are bold, brash, and unnerving. This isn’t an easy listen. It’s meant to be absorbed deeply and uncomfortably. The tragically beautiful yet obscure lyricism sets Faux/Fox apart from many others in their scene that never dare to touch the topics indulged here. “Hoping to ruin your day one song at a time” is the perfect way to advertise Faux/Fox. By Congratulations’ end, one will walk through a questionable haze for a while which, if a Facebook bio is anything to go by, was the group’s goal all along.