steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

For Against

"Echelons" CD

Words On Music

Genres: indie rock, indie pop

Words On Music
715 University Ave SE #201
Minneapolis MN

Sep 26 - Oct 3 2004

Echelons, For Against's debut album, was originally released in 1987 on Independent Project Records.  Seventeen years down the line, they're celebrating its reissue on the Minneapolis-based Words On Music label, following a 2002 release of their well-received sixth album, Coalesced.  Right on the first listen, it's easy to recognize the era Echelons was recorded in - this is pure eighties, and comparisons to Joy Division, REM, and New Order are appropriate if not customary.

The For Against sound is relatively easy to describe - the trio sets up an instrumental backing - guitar, bass, keyboard, and percussion - over which Jeffrey Runnings sings.  The combination is very Joy Division-esque - tragically hopeful vocals are mixed with foreboding, intense instrumental parts.  The singing, as a result, seems somewhat detached from the rest of the music.  Though the songs sound simple - their choruses repetitive, winding - they are very thought-out and detailed.  Basslines throb, waves of guitar crash about, and synths add layers of detail to the mix - I've heard this many times before, but every time it's different.  Understand?

"Shine" and "Echelons" are two of this album's best songs - the former is a movingly uplifting track with shimmering layers of echoing guitar leading the processions, while the brooding title-track boasts the album's best chorus.  The seven minute "Broke My Back," which closes Echelons, is also a particularly inspired moment - although some may find it a bit too long for its own good.  Many of the other songs would be considered classics on other albums, but are victims of this record's consistent brilliance.

Given all the amazing records that came out in the eighties, it's easy to understand why Echelons is often overlooked.  Words On Music hopes this reissue will enlighten a few souls who never picked up on how influential early For Against material really was.  I say they've found a winner.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 9 tracks, distributed by the label, originally released 1987; reissued 2004]