With their second in a series of two releases by the Lincoln, Nebraska band For Against, the Words On Music label takes another notch out of the rare CD ebay market by offering up the groups long out-of-print second album December. Just last year, the label gave their debut Echelons (which was only released on LP originally) a grand welcome back into the world, and December is now being given a similarly fancy treatment.
In addition to being packaged in a nice two-fold digipack, the album has been remastered and even features two little-seen videos from the group. Although Nebraska has now become a musical hotspot because of Saddle Creek Records, one has to admit that the group sounded pretty far ahead of their time considering the original album release date of 1988. Absorbing influences as wide as Factory Records, early REM, and even some touches of the 4AD catalogue, it's as if the trio from the midwest distilled down what they liked about all the cutting edge groups that they listened to at the time and arrived at something that still sounds pretty fresh nearly 20 years later.
The album bursts out of the gate with "Sabres," and Harry Dingman again makes his presence on guitar known right away with soaring melodies that mix nicely with the light delivery of Jeffrey Runnings on vocals (and backed by a solid rhythm section). In fact, one can almost hear a bit of an English lilt on the vocals of Runnings, as if he were looking to separate himself from the heartland even more than the music already does. As if to emphasize things even more, the following track "Stranded In Greenland" contains even more vague vocals that may or may not be a metaphor for the flyover state.
If one were to remove the vocals of Runnings from "The Effect," the ultra-gauzy guitars and an almost electronic-sounding rhythm section running in 6/8 time could easily provide the backdrop to an early Cocteau Twins track while the title track of "December" echoes the dark early period work of The Cure instrumentally. For me, the first two albums from For Against were easily their best. Although they had some excellent songs in their latter period, they sound much more lively and willing to try different things (partially due to the excellent guitar work of Dingman, who later went on to play with The Millions). Considering the group is back together and playing again in their original lineup (albeit with a different drummer), they could very well make a resurgence on the heels of these excavations.