Fake Names formed when two long-time friends decided to play music together at home, with no plans for it to grow into an actual group. But after Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion) and Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace, One Last Wish) put the pen to paper, they changed their mind and recruited a band. They’d attended elementary school with bassist Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside), and he was a natural fit. Then they added a well-known vocalist to fill out the lineup: Dennis Lyxzén (Refused). No drummer is listed on the press release.
The collective discography behind the members is impressive, but Fake Names is a new band and its own project. At its heart, it’s guitar-fueled punk ‘n’ roll. The dual guitars define the sound, with pounding drums, dramatic interludes, and Lyxzén’s unique vocal stylings. It is dramatic music with a little bit of rise-and-fall tempo, as in “Weight,” but more often than not the movements rely on a combination of Lyxzén’s inflection and dual guitar chord progressions that move the songs forward in a wave-like rhythm: bobbing up and down and toward an end point, with a steady pattern that’s predictable without being boring.
The standouts are “Darkest Days,” “Lost Cause,” and “First Everlasting,” balancing those rolling guitar melodies with swaggering vocals and big choral callouts. Unfortunately, at times the chorus is the weak point instead of the culmination. In “Driver,” for instance, the harmonies that take over at the chorus derail the energy that comes form Lyxzén’s inflection. It feels formulaic rather than genuine.
To dig deeper on “First Everlasting,” this song has a whoa-oh chorus and hip-shaking rhythm that trades off with that cathartic choral moment. In this case the pop chorus marries the hooks perfectly -- with more heart and less focus on proficiency -- and it works to its benefit. This is ultimately pop rock with dramatic touches. The harmonized segments in other songs feel a little cold -- too much proficiency instead of heart. Fake Names’ real strength comes in the merger between Lyxzén’s flare and the layered dual guitar progressions. His delivery shines a spotlight on the dramatic and heartfelt melodic peaks before the intertwined guitars bridge in a new direction.
On this debut record, it feels a bit like Lyxzén is a hired hand and the songwriters have yet to fully integrate his style with their own. It certainly has some shining moments, but it doesn’t really meld together into a cohesive, gut-punch record that sticks with you. The relentless drums, the forceful vocals and the textured guitars all come together in the middle but they never really emerge as the beautiful new catalyst you hope for.
6.9 / 10
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Posted March 25, 2020, 5:49 p.m.
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