False Idle – “California or Bust” (EP)


False Idle California Or Bust album coverPunk bands playing acoustic?  For the uninitiated this may seem a bit odd, but actually quite a few punk bands have included acoustic bonus tracks on their albums and typically the songs work very well.  In its truest sense, punk rock is almost built for translation into acoustic pieces as the songs normally have traditional verse-chorus structures, are usually entirely comprised of simple chords, and much of the songs are geared toward fan participation live with sing-along sections plentifully scattered throughout the songs.  The  “California or Bust” ep was actually created due to the contributions of fans funding the False Idle’s trip to California for Thumper Punk Records Night.  In the end what started out as a cool idea has led to a good collection of songs in a new format

Those who remember the Boise, Idaho punk band uniSEF certainly know about False Idle, but others may know them only since the 2010 release Hymns of Punk Rock Praise, which featured fast and raucous versions of classic hymns and well-known Christian anthems.  Working on this inspired Sef Idle to recruit bandmates again and in the spring of 2011 the I Refuse ep was released to great reviews.  Following the departure of some band members, some live shows, and the addition of replacement band members to solidify the lineup, writing began on the full-length album, and Threat was released in the spring of 2013.  As some smaller labels are apt to do, Thumper Punk Records has put on mini-festivals featuring as many of their bands as possible and the most recent Thumper Punk Records night was set for September of 2013.  One thing many people wanted to see was a uniSEF reunion, which meant that False Idle would have to figure out how to get from Idaho to Southern California, which is not an easy thing from a travel and cost perspective.  As a fundraiser for this effort, False Idle went into the studio and laid down some acoustic versions of songs off their I Refuse ep and Threat albums.

On first listen, I was little concerned as “Facade” starts out a bit on the rough side from the vocals perspective, almost as if this were the first song played with no warm up.  As the song progressed though everything smoothed out.  Those who know False Idle or uniSEF will instantly recognize the tone and style in Sef Idle’s vocals.  At times and throughout this song they are very distinctive, with an almost snotty and sneering tone from the beginning when he’s singing “I see right through the front that’s on display. It’s time we take that all away…”  This is punk rock, so the even when the music doesn’t have a strong bite to it, the lyrics certainly will.

Again on first listen, this ep almost seems as if it was recorded live in one take.  The roughness at the beginning of “Facade” is completely gone by the start of the second song “High Hopes” and this song sounds so cool acoustically that if I didn’t have the amped version of it, I would think this was likely the only version.  The acoustic adaptation worked very well for this song.

For “I Refuse”, the band chose to go instrumental with a guitar taking over where the vocals would normally be.  Again, this is a very well arranged track and shows some ingenuity on the part of the band, not only being able to substitute the guitar for the vocals but also incorporating a cello to take over the bass parts.  Yep, cello and acoustic punk rock…lots of unexpectedness there but it all works.

“Retaliate” was heavily worked on to make the acoustic transition, to the point where it almost sounds like it could be from a Johnny Cash session with Rick Rubin.  Sef takes a break on the vocals this time, letting Seth Warren lend a gravelly, darker tone to the song.  The song also features some layered guitars in the beginning and throughout the song that add some nice texture and balance out the vocals.

The last two tracks are a bit of a contrast in style and message with “Threat” being a happy, defiant sing-along incorporating some gang vocals for most of the song, proclaiming why Christians are a “threat to society”. “There’s something that they see in us that makes them think we’re dangerous…they see that we are passionate about what we believe, they see that what we speak of means much more…than what they’ve been living their lives for”.  Fittingly, the ep ends with a more subdued song about the life of a Christian with all its trials, joys, tribulations, and uncertainties and how if I “think about the Rock I stand on, the fears they just don’t last.”  The slower tempo, calmer vocals in the verse and gang vocals in the chorus give this song an anthemic feel, that is further emphasized with Sef’s louder “Where do we go from here” over the top and the quietly into the fade.

Sometimes these types of projects are just one-offs that are hastily thrown together and have a gimmicky feel to them.  California or Bust does not have that feel at all.  From the changes to the songs to fit into an acoustic style to the extras like incorporating a cello and retooling an entire song into a different genre, it’s obvious that False Idle approached this as they would any other project.  Punk rock heart and soul is obvious in these tracks even without the roaring guitars and galloping drums, something that even those not fans of punk rock should be able to appreciate.

Rating: 8/10

1. Façade [4:19]
2. High Hopes [3:04]
3. I Refuse [2:57]
4. In The Dark [2:59]
5. Retaliate [3:00]
6. Threat [3:38]
7. Where Do We Go [2:58]

Band Members:
Sef Idle [vocals, guitar]
Tyler Lewis [guitar, vocals]
Seth Warren [bass, vocals]
Philip Harris [drums]

Record label: ThumperPunk Records, Oct. 2013

Weblinks: Website / Myspace / Facebook / Twitter

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Interview With ‘False Idle’ [Nov. 2011]

Video below for ‘Where Do We Go’

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