f.o.c. are a four-piece alternative rock band hailing from San Antonio, Texas. Their moniker derives from their original name First Order Condition, and this album constitutes their second album, having released their eponymous debut in 2013. Their music is what I would term sophisticated alternative rock, very commercial but in no way clichéd, combining elements of alt. rock bands like Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon with more mainstream and traditional rock like Train and Nickelback.
This second album, Color Blind, has been flawlessly produced by David Percefull at YellowDog Studios in Austin, Texas in June 2014. The overall sound has a gorgeous sheen you associate with well produced pop music, but the thunderous drum sound in particular lets the listener know this is very much a rock band, bringing to mind Dave Grohl sound on Nirvana’s Nevermind, though still very much modern rather than dated.
The principle songwriters in the band are vocalist Nick “Nico” Evans and Christopher Pate, with the rest of the band then developing the songs. They write very well-structured and arranged pop/rock songs that quickly stick in the mind and are almost tailor made for radio, which I think bodes well for their future. For me, a rock band needs not only great songs and strong musicianship, but most importantly of all a great singer. In Nico Evans, this fundamental box is ticked and he sings everything here with passion and conviction.
Desperation is the opening track and was my personal favourite of these songs, with a beautiful Beatles-esque picked descending progression on the intro, then bursting into the verse with Evans trading lines with Pate, who also has a great voice rock n roll. I liked the way they built up to the chorus with two verses and bridges, before it kicks in with huge backing vocals chanting “close your eyes..”. Pate’s solo here is his best, with a superb tone and a great run at the end. This definitely has to be a single, preferably the first one.
Love My Way comes next, an excellent cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ classic song, replacing the icy synths and general eighties production style with the more modern f.o.c. sound. Synth lines become lead guitar lines which works better than the original, in my opinion. It also helps that Nico Evans is a more gifted vocalist than the Furs’ Richard Butler ,who was perhaps overly indebted to David Bowie’s singing style. Cover versions are justifiable when they improve upon the song covered (for instance, Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchmaker), and fortunately that is very much the case here.
Summer of No Regrets has an uplifting octave guitar riff that does indeed give it a summery vibe and boasts a massive chorus, with some gorgeous choral ‘Aahs’ that Queen would have been proud of. Evans gets to show off his huge vocal range on this one, MacWilliams contributes some fantastic drum fills and I loved the quirky instrumental section in the middle. Another potential single.
The tone changes again for next track Sleepwalker, a more angst filled lyric that finds the protagonists in emotional turmoil, the chorus running “Should I stay home losing my mind?”. It’s another fine track, with the guitars alternating nicely between clean and melodic on the verses, then visceral and heavy on the choruses. It features another strong solo by Pate, though more understated than some of the others on the album.
Next track, Love Sex, as the title implies, is somewhat more ‘earthy’ in tone, the opening lines telling you all you need to know: “I remember you, and your love sex letters…daytime rendezvous would always make things better…”. It contains a fantastic low-end guitar riff, doubled up on bass, but what stands out particularly on this track is how tight the band is. The drums (Scott MacWilliams) and bass (Chris Kosiorek) are interlocked throughout as any good rhythm section should be, and the chunky guitars and throaty vocals add up to a potent brew.
Guitarist Christopher Pate gets to shine a couple of minutes in with a superb solo that brought to mind Slash’s finest moments on Appetite For Destruction. At three minutes the song enters a breakdown and long building section, leading to an epic finish with a choral synth sound and Evans intoning “We’re running out of time to find our heaven…”. It concludes another fine song, and another definite possible single, if a risqué one.
Whiskey and Wine comes last, a short but very lovely guitar instrumental that adds a nice melancholy ending to proceedings. The picked melody is hauntingly beautiful, and gives an almost cinematic finish to the album. Overall, these six tracks prove f.o.c. as serious contenders for the crown of best rock band out there, with at least three songs potentially huge radio hits. f.o.c. can be as big as they want to be.
Verdict: 8.5 out of 10