When I heard that I had the opportunity to review the forthcoming full-length album No Fun by local hooligans Forests (Jon Du, Tseng Kuo-Hung, Luo Zun Long), I figured it was a no-brainer. Anyone that really knows me knows that I like my garage rock lo-fi with a healthy dose of doo-wop, punk sensibility and psychedelia. I thought to myself…I’m really going to dig this album. And you know what...it most definitely didn’t disappoint.
As anyone who has seen Forests play live knows, these guys don’t fuck about. From the get-go, they come out guns blazing and quickly whip the crowd into a frenzy which doesn’t abate until you leave smiling, sweaty and more often than not, drunk. You’ll find that same intoxicating energy throughout the 12 tracks on No Fun. As a follow up to 2012’s The Moon is Man, we find a band that is in full stride with a confidence to their compositions that makes me think of some of the more notable veteran bands of this genre.
On more than one occasion during my many listens to this album I found myself hearing familiar cues from some of my favorite garage-punk bands. From the opening track, Death Mask, we are catapulted into Forests’ signature sound of pounding drums, savage guitars and a vocal style reminiscent of retro artists like Mark Sultan. While listening to Pleasure Science, I couldn’t help but hear a little of the Black Lips’ signature fuzzy vocals and devastating guitar feedback. Possibly my favorite cut of the album is Woo Woo Woo, which reminds me of the surf-rock stylings of The 18.104.22.168’s and is fueled by Luo Zun Long’s insane rapid-fire drumming. Although it’s easy to hear the similarities to all of these artists, it’s how Forests chooses to combine these individual styles that keeps it all unique.
Don’t take my references to other bands as an indication that this album is some sort of retread of well-worn garage clichés, because it isn’t. In a market saturated with a lot of musical offerings that sound much the same, Forests give us some refreshingly original audio therapy. For example, Beard War is a party anthem of the highest caliber. It opens with climactic guitars and drums which build tension and finally release into distorted chords, bouncing basslines and the fellas singing in unison. I have to imagine that this would serve as the perfect soundtrack to a few dozen drinks with one hundred or so of your closest friends. Then there’s the happy little number Ju Want It. This throwback to a bygone era opens with playful call and answer vocals over twangy guitar strumming. At once, putting you in a good mood, the structure then changes and launches into manic, bluesy guitar shredding which is tempered by those same lighthearted vocals. For a truly bombastic number, I turn your attention to What’d You Say. Forget what I said earlier, this is my favorite cut. This track grabs you by the short and curlies and drags you kicking and screaming towards the end of the album. After an extended drama-building intro worthy of the best late-70’s arena rock, it launches into a long snare roll that culminates in a high-octane footrace between deep basslines, taunting lyrics and some truly unbelievable drumming. On the final number, they remind us that they really don’t give a fuck what the popular sound du jour is. I Don’t Mind is a plodding ode to that beautiful girl every guy wants by his side. The sad, resigned lyrics are awash in bright synth chords which provide the perfect balance to the heavy basslines that permeate the song.
No Fun proves to be one of the more complete albums that I have had the opportunity to listen to of late. The fact that it comes from a relatively little-known band of pranksters out of a young music scene like Taipei’s is all the more impressive. Their sound is one built around the fact that they are all highly skilled at their respective instruments and truly enjoy their craft. As a matter of fact, I have to say that I could be entertained for hours just watching Zun Long play drums in his crazily animated style. As their sophomore release, this album gives promise of a lot more great things to come from a local band on top of their game.