For Against – Shade Side Sunny Side (Words On Music)

Shade Side Sunny Side is the first new For Against album in six years, and after almost a quarter of a century together, they still sound vital – just not as consistently. Age has dulled some of the youthful energy of their post-punk/proto-shoegaze classics December and Echelons, but it hasn’t dulled their ability to write good tunes like “Glamour” and “Aftertaste”, which feature the band’s trademark mix of propulsive beats, moody guitars and Jeffrey Runnings’ lyrical ruminations on loneliness and isolation (something the band must have felt in Nebraska in the ’80s). Their icy cover of Section 25’s Joy Division-esque “Friendly Fires” fits  “the For Against sound” perfectly, and it’s a nice tip of the cap from one under-appreciated band to another. Some new stylistic ground gets broken, with several ballads (“Game Over”, “Irresistible” and “Spirit Lake”) that unfortunately fall flat due to overly-earnest lyrics. Fine, Shade Side Sunny Side isn’t perfect – but how many of their contemporaries are still putting out albums that are 2/3 as good?


1. Glamour
2. Underestimate
3. Why Are You So Angry?
4. Aftertaste
5. Friendly Fires
6. Game Over
7. Spirit Lake
8. Quiet Please
9. Irressistible

For Against – In The Marshes (Words On Music)

Lincoln, Nebraska proto-shoegaze group For Against recorded In The Marshes in 1986, but kept it on the shelf until 1990 when it was released as a 10″ record. These six tracks have a more experimental feel than the group’s full-length records from that period (December and Echelons – both excellent) mostly due to the use of a drum machine (borrowed from Matthew Sweet), but also an increased use of atmospheric sounds as a focal point – reverb and delay are as important as any other element in their songs. Opener “Tibet” is a wordless chant that drifts along over electronic pulses and heavily reverbed guitar tones, sounding like New Order being fronted by a group of monks. The five tracks that follow show that, even in a formative stage, the band were creating interesting moods and textures, though the drum machine dates the music. In addition to the six original tracks, the reissue adds two bonus cuts – reworkings of two of the EP’s songs (“Amnesia” and “Amen Yves”) with live drums. Although it’s not the best place to start for newbies, old fans will want to pick this up to tide them over until For Against’s next album (their first in five years) later this year.

For Against – December (Words On Music)

This is a reissue of this Lincoln, Nebraska trio’s excellent second album, originally released in 1988. Who are For Against? Well, since you asked, they were one of the first American bands to combine the dark atmospheric post-punk of Echo and Bunnymen and Joy Division (the bass playing is somewhat indebted to Peter Hook), with the faster jangling college-rock of early-REM, and by doing so, came up with a sound that would later be known as “dream-pop” or “shoegaze” music.

From the caffeinated opening of “Sabres” to the last ringing guitar notes of “Clandestine Holy High”, there’s no stinkers among December’s nine songs. If anything, you could make a strong case for December as one of the most underrated albums of the 1980s. Perhaps the group’s “uncool” hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska made them hard to market, or perhaps they were just unlucky. Whatever the reason, tracks like “They Said” or “Stranded in Greenland”, where singer/bassist Jeffrey Runnings turns statements of disillusionment into catchy anthemic rock, make you wonder why these guys aren’t well-remembered. The two Echelons-era videos included as a CD-ROM bonus are pretty cool too. Don’t let this album go unheard again.


1. sabres (3.24)

2. stranded in greenland (3.11)

3. svengali (2.44)

4. they said (4.11)

5. the effect (4.38)

6. december (5.06)

7. the last laugh (4.31)

8. paperwhites (3.41)

9. clandestine high holy (4.23)