"All too infrequently do modern rock albums sound cohesive enough to evoke a mood or a feeling that carries through every song, while also allowing the individual songs room to change, both musically and lyrically. Favourite Sons has managed to create such an album, one reminiscent of an American western: a huge, raw, brutal, lonely and beautiful cry on a darkening horizon. Born when four members of Philly's Aspera joined with ex-Rollerskate Skinny member Ken Griffin as lead vocalist and songwriter, Favourite Sons' debut Down Beside Your Beauty examines the complexities of love, fear and regret. The band does so in such an unabashedly raw manner that it seems as though they've stripped everything down its base elements — there isn't a guitar solo or overly processed effect on the entire album, and Griffin's command of both language and imagery is chilling without a single unnecessary word. "When You're Away From Me," the album's opener, repeats its chorus three times: "When you're away from me / it makes me feel so sad / because of the things I know / about you and the world." It's an incredibly simple statement, yet somehow the start of a million unanswered questions, all set to a blisteringly pure rock soundtrack.
And yet, beneath the straightforward sound that appears on the surface, the band excels in changing the tone and direction of a song. The bass and tom-heavy rock swagger of "Rise Up" paired with Griffin's warnings ("Beware of my hatred" and "Don't tell another man to calm down, man") seem to hint at something foreboding at best. When the chorus kicks in and Griffin pleads, "Everybody, everywhere should try a little harder if they can," it's enough to make you do just that.
Throughout the album, Griffin gracefully slips in hints of social critique and nationalism (although not of the American variety — Griffin was born and raised in Ireland). But talking about insecurity, fear and loss of love remains the band's true talent, one no other rock band in 2006 even comes close to touching. When the album's closer comes around ("Things That We Do To Each Other," the most epic and heartbreaking song on the record) Griffin's response to much of his own self-doubt seems vastly simple and apt: 'The love has got to me.'"
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