In 2013 Douglas Firs featured twice on this blog. In 2015 the band is back with a new album called The Long Answer Is No. Intriguing title, isn't it? Makes me sort of wonder what the short one is.
Again a great record from Belgium features on this blog. The new album by Douglas Firs is somewhat more solid than I remember the band's previous one to be. 'Shimmer & Glow' (read my review here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2013/08/shimmer-glow-2-douglas-firs.html) captured me immediately. The Long Answer is No took the long route. It took me several listening sessions over a longer period of time before the album found its way in. The first songs reminded me of Tim Knol too much, which isn't a reference that helps in my case. Douglas Firs is rocking in a very direct way in the first two songs. By song 3 things change and a great ballad is presented to those who chose to listen. It is here that everything falls into its place and the great enjoyment begins.
Douglas Firs is Gertjan van Hellemons with some people helping him out, who play, like is the rule in Belgium, in other bands. Cross-pollination is the way the Belgian musicians work best. Simon Casier of Balthazar plays bass, Christophe Claeys of Amatorski and Magnus is on drums. People from several other bands do guest appearances.
Let me start with the song that was released as a single for the upcoming Dutch tour Douglas Firs is embarking on this fall. The aptly titled 'Summer's Leaving' has that West Coast super hit magic, where the more serious verse morphs into an heavenly chorus driven by perfect harmonies. The intro to the song is telling all that is to come if we are patient and it does. The quality is like Douwe Bob's in his best songs.
The Long Answer Is No changes between these two sort of moods. The harder rocking intros and west coast balladry, heave(n)ly influenced by the Eagles, CSN(Y), etc. As such there is a hint to Admiral Freebee as well. That is still not all. 'The Kind of Thing' is a singer with his acoustic guitar. Folk in its pure form. Gertjan van Hellemons gets away with it easily.
Opening song is a song that could have been on Douwe Bob's latest album, with Tim Knol singing. In 'Caroline' a lot is going on. The drums in a few sections make the whole song fall apart. A little more productional hints would have helped here. The whopping around drums are not exactly pretty, where the rest of the song certainly is. Just some beautiful harmonising on a quite commercial song. Perhaps Douglas Firs simply felt too guilty about how West Coast poppy the band sounded?
The pleasant riffing continues in 'Can You Tell Her I Said Hi?'. What an intro the song has. The harsh sounding guitar, echoed by a voice. The song remains this direct. A memorable melody, but not necessarily pretty. Douglas Firs changes moods without being afraid to tread on a toe or two of the more sensitive listener.
Just when it must start to hurt the song ends with a harsh cry demanding to say hi more than asking. Next this soft melody sets in on an electric piano and soothes the aching parts with violins and all. The mood may swing, the quality does not waver for a single note.
A ballad like '22.22' is a little bit too much for my taste. Like Tim Knol is a bit too much for me in general and Douwe Bob at times. The pleasant thing about a song which is sort of o.k. but not exceptional is that the ones that are stick out even more. Of course that doesn't make The Long Answer Is No a better album, it does add to the way it varies in songs. Like the way the intro to the already mentioned 'Summer's Leaving' kicks in. Smiles all around here.
Douglas Firs is two album into its career and I'm enjoying myself here. Let the fun continue. The band is touring NL extensively. Let me find a date that works. It seems like December though.
You can listen to 'The Long Answer Is No' here:
or buy on Bol.Com