Fear The Dean‘s second record Apparently I Look Fucked Up is an ambitious follow-up to their self-titled debut. This time around, the band has stripped their sound down to acoustic instruments. The contrast is jarring and on my first listen I despised it. Thankfully, this new approach gives the songs room to grow. Space plays a significant role in the way these songs sound and makes this record superior to their debut.
This sonic shift breathes new life into the album’s four cuts that appeared, in an electric form, on the band’s first record. The vengeful “I Hope Your White Dress Gets Dirty” has superficially softer edges this time around but it’s driving riff, steady drums, and the bass’ prominent place in the mix give this version a folk-punk edge. “New York, I Love You” was one of the debut’s softer songs and as a result, this new version isn’t drastically different. Its prettiness, however, is maximized in this configuration since the vocals seem louder and clearer. “Sucker For You” is surprisingly unaffected by the change. Most of the riffs still sound heavy, and the cadence of the vocals is unchanged. The lead guitar riff at 1:38 is cuter this time around, though. “Alive” maintains the moody aura of the original but once again, the crispness and clarity of this new version make it superior to its muddy predecessor.
Apparently I Look Fucked Up has new songs as well. The opening track “Pretty” effectively eases the listener into the record’s sonic shift. Opening with a heavy bass line and haunting vocals that are very much in line with the first record’s post-punk sound, the song suddenly throws an acoustic curve ball. In general, though, I found the song repetitive and irritating, making it easily my least favourite on the record. The second track, “Cellmates” is one of my favourites. Describing a deteriorating romantic relationship, the lyrics and vocals start with a surprising amount of apathy. Lines like, “We were soulmates, but we’re cellmates now, and I don’t mind, I don’t mind at all. I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, I’m good,” create the impression that the narrator is okay with this turn of events. However, as the song’s slow pace picks up near the end, the vocals get more intense, revealing that the apathetic nature of these lines were a ruse that is finally unravelling.
“I’m Not An Alcoholic” is another favourite of mine. Its fun, fast-paced, folk-punk sound is right up my alley. I’m not a fan of how judgmental the lyrics are, but there’s a cute and subtle line about weed being the narrator’s drug of choice. “I’ll Try” is slow, dramatic and features the worst vocal performance on the record. There are so many drawn out inhales that could have easily been edited out. Musically the song is more subdued than “I’m Not An Alcoholic,” but its raging chorus has a similar folk-punk vibe. Overall, I admire Fear The Dean’s willingness to almost entirely reinvent their sound and I’m surprised by how much more I liked this record as a result.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy