Failing Up – Sword and the Wall

While we have seen countless female-fronted rock bands dominated by a hundred and one Haley Williams clones, female-fronted punk rock has had the enviable position of featuring an amazing variety of powerful women fronting a cavalcade of in-your-face music. We’ve had in this recent lifetime the opportunity to witness a host of bands both globe-conquering and local who have shredded stages and studios- The Distillers, The Interrupters, White Lung, Tsunami Bomb, Naked Aggression, L7, The Donnas, Deviates- just to name a very select few. All coming from an assortment of genres, but all sharing one commonality; attitude. There is one band that needs to be added to this list immediately, and that is Los Angeles based punk band Failing Up.

Buoyed by the shattering and snarling vocal work of Tanya Delgado, Failing Up are a mesmerizing blend of melodic punk and hardcore. The lovechild of Beat the Bastards-era The Exploited and melodicore heavyweights like Strung Out and Pennywise, the band have just released their latest work, a six-song EP of pummelling riffs accentuated with Delgado’s menacing voice. From the onset of the opening “Deal With This”, Failing Up take no prisoners, lobbing a salvo of blazing guitars, machine gun percussion work and the kind of urgency that goes missing in more serene musical pastures. It is impossible to listen to “Deal With This” and not get amped. Whether it is the soaring “woah woahs” or the breakneck tempo of the song, it does in just two minutes what bands fail to do in entire full-lengths.

“Headlights” takes its sonic cues from Pennywise and early 88 Fingers Louie, while “The Method” cuts a more melodic mid-tempo veneer. It is a nice break away from the pace of the rest of the album but doesn’t sacrifice any of the EP’s urgency for easy to digest harmonies. The EP closes with “Antichrist”, with its hardcore roots in tow, the song burns the right kind of bright in its sometimes sludgy breakdowns and metal-tinged riffage. A succinct six songs that leave you hungry for more, Sword and the Wall goes a long way in solidifying the appeal of Failing Up.

There’s been a long lineage of noted female frontwomen who have dominated the punk rock landscape, a lineage that started with names like Patti Smith, Exene Cervenka, and Siouxsie Sioux, and continued on by the likes of Kathleen Hanna and Brody Dalle. There’s a cavalcade of terrific frontwomen making music today, all deserving of praise, but you can’t argue for adding Tanya Delgado’s name to that prominent list. It may be early on in the piece but Failing Up have got the chops and this EP is proof they are no slouch. While it sounds that Delgado’s terrific vocal work may overshadow the rest of the music, it is not true, her voice is one part (a great part) of a complete persona. This EP comes highly recommended, and if that is not enough to sway you, in the age of easily accessible digital music (free), I bought this and would buy it again.

(Sound Speed Records)

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