Art of Fighting – Second Story

Art of Fighting
Second Story

A lot has happened since the Australian band Art of Fighting released its debut album Wires back in 2001 (the album was released on 3 Beads Of Sweat in the US one year later). The band toured Australia, Europe, and Japan, won an award for the Best Alternative Release in its own country and faced a break up of relationship between two band members (guitarist and singer Ollie Browne and bassist Peggy Frew). All these events have slowed down the writing process for the new album, and the relationship break up might have something to do with most of the song’s overall feeling of loneliness, frustrated love, abandon, and vulnerability.

Art of Fighting’s second full-length, Second Storey, made me think of The God Machine’s Scenes From the Second Storey, but actually the title comes from an obscure Japanese video game, Star Ocean: the Second Story. That should be no surprise, since the band itself is named after a video game. You might expect something funny or at least entertaining from this Melbourne-based quartet, but Art of Fighting explores the darker sides of human emotion, and this is not an appropriate soundtrack to your favorite video games.

Based around the songwriting talent and wonderful vocals of Ollie Browne, Art of Fighting creates music that is epic and inspiring. Album opener and first single “Along the Run” sets the tone for the release brilliantly, with the soft sound of guitars, strings, and piano and the awareness of a love long gone: “And every minute I spent with you / another minute that I could use / to show why our time was done.”

“Your Easy Part” is that kind of pop song that won’t easily leave your mind after just one listen, and at the end of the song you’re left wondering why such good songs can’t make it to the top of international charts, but then you realize we all live in a cruel world. “Break for Me” flows along at a slow pace like Red House Painters’ songs used to do. It’s a dramatically intense and deep track, with the standout lyrics, “now that all the many ways that you occupy your days / have left you without hope / you’re caught between the way and not knowing the way.”

“Busted, Broken, Forgotten,” “Real Time,” and “Heart Translation” feature Browne’s melancholic and heartbreaking voice over sparsely strummed guitars, beautifully arranged strings, and gentle drums. “Two Rivers” starts quietly and showcases the slow-core grandeur of the Australian four-piece before suddenly bursting into a furious rage with powerful guitars and drums that slowly return to their most comfortable soft and mellow sounds. “Where Trouble Lived” features bassist Peggy Frew on vocals, and her sweet voice adds a different feel to this incredibly well-crafted pop song.

“Sing Song” started life as a weird kind of hip-hop looped trance-like song in its initial demo (!!!) and captures the intensity and dynamic range of Art of Fighting. Luckily there’s nothing left of that hip-hop flavor, yet the song is different from the others on Second Storey and is reminiscent of the best rock ballads that Buffalo Tom wrote in the mid-90s. “Come Round & Show Me” is the climax of this wonderful album: the song shines with melodic and soft guitars, a perfect and subtle rhythmic session, and the gorgeous voice of Ollie Browne, who never sounded so desperate and suffering. This may well be the best song written by Art of Fighting to date.

What makes Art of Fighting and its music so unique and amazing is the way these guys succeed in being so heartfelt and melancholic yet so incredibly melodic. I have played this album to death, and hopefully you will do the same!