What Ever Happened to… “Fair to Midland” Edition

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Welcome to the series that I have no intention of maintaining as a series. Let’s talk about the bulbs that burned so bright that they burnt out before they could shine again.

The vague concept of potential energy that builds with the promise of a payload that will change the course of humanity, only to slowly fizzle out and return to a grounded state, is something that haunts my dreams. Since great art takes significant time and effort, there are bound to be countless examples of greatness unfinished. If we are lucky, we get to glimpse the unfinished work, but deep down we know the unfinished product is not what it was intended to be. David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, stunted by his suicide, and Brian Wilson’s Smile, massively delayed by (I won’t go into detail because you need to see Love and Mercy) come to mind for me.

With emerging musicians, the potential for greatness isn’t really known to anyone outside of the project, so it is hard to be disappointed when they fizzle out. However, when an artist releases one spectacular album then fades into oblivion, it affects me more than it should. Shouldn’t I just be happy with what I have?

Anyway, back when I was just a wee lad (2008), I was coming off the high of discovering Karnivool’s Themata, when I somehow became aware of a band called Fair to Midland and their album, Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (2007). It seemed to be one of those albums that was exactly what I was looking for at the time. I was coming down from my love of Cheesy Weedly Deedels (ex: Dream Theater) and looking for more interesting songwriting.

Fair to Midland delivered. Now, I can almost guarantee that Darroh Sudderth’s vocals will make a few of you nope-the-fuck-right-off, but if there is a chance that you can get used to them, it is worth the effort. The album kicks off with the eclectic “Dance of the Manatee”, which gives ample notice of just how much fun the album is going to contain.

Like a less-heavy Destrage, the tone is all over the place. Is it serious? Is it just a wacky experiment? At this point it is hard to tell. A few more songs in, you start to grasp the theme. As the album title implies, they somehow instill the fever-dream-esque spirit of a fairy tale into every song, yet every song is its own identifiable entity.

After Fables, the band released one more album four years later, but it doesn’t have nearly the same charm (and I don’t want to talk about it because it doesn’t fit the narrative of this article). There were rumors of another album to follow, but instead they were never to be heard from again.

I want to tack another band onto this post who suffered from a similar condition. About three years ago, I related-artist-searched my way to Amia Venera Landscape and fell in post-metal-love. The Italian band released The Long Procession in 2010, and seemingly vanished. I looked everywhere and basically only found old articles and reviews. I was certain they succumbed to the same fate, but then: a blink. They released a new recording in August of 2014 and divulged a plan to release four (4!!) albums in the near future. A few more months of silence followed until they finally announced this December that their next album would be out on April 30, 2016.  Maybe the dead do rise.

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