Watch CBS News

'90 alt-rock favorites Failure return to Great American

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Reunited '90s alternative-rock band Failure plays songs from their latest album 'Wild Type Droid' Thursday night when they return to the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

Of all the bands that got signed during the early 1990s feeding frenzy of the alternative-rock explosion, Los Angeles group Failure was one that seemed destined to catapult past having a fiercely loyal cult of fans to mainstream success. Over the course of three albums. the partnership of guitarist and songwriter Ken Andrews and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Greg Edwards produced some of the most indelible rock tunes of the decade.


While Andrews wrote all of the songs on the band's tersely tuneful, hard-hitting 1992 debut Comfort, his collaboration with Andrews blossomed during the recording of their sophomore effort Magnified. On tunes like the infectious opener "Let It Drip" and bass-driven "Frogs" and "Wet Gravity," the band's established its trademark mix of richly textured atmospheres, muscular riffs, and crafty pop hooks.

Frogs - Failure [HQ] by sneakstatic on YouTube

Despite critical praise and repeat tours supporting fellow LA band and avowed fans Tool, Failure never quite broke through to a wider audience, even after the release of their masterstroke 1996 album, Fantastic Planet. The minor modern-rock hit "Stuck On You" should have been the tipping point to bigger success, but distribution issues with then label Slash Records hamstrung the release. Frustrated and struggling with drug-related personal issues, Failure would called it a day the following year.

Failure - Stuck On You | Live @ JBTV by JBTV Music Television on YouTube

The band members stayed busy, with the production work Andrews did on the latter two Failure albums serving as a calling card that made him an in-demand mix engineer. He also recorded with solo projects ON and Year of the Rabbit, while Edwards contributed to the sole album by psych-pop band Lusk and celebrated shoegaze/noise trio Autolux.

Still, the interest and fan worship of Failure (including the numerous musicians from alt-rock bands in the 2000s who would cite the group as an influence) eventually spurred a reunion. In February of 2014, the classic line-up of Andrews, Edwards, and drummer Kelli Scott shared the stage at the El Rey Theater for Failure's first show in 16 years to the rapturous response of fans.

The success of the show led to a full-blow tour and -- more importantly -- the band's return to the studio. In 2015, Failure released it's first album in nearly two decades -- The Heart Is a Monster -- to nearly universal acclaim. Incorporating numerous instrumental segues between songs with a similar structure as Fantastic Planet, the album firmly announced that Failure was back to stay.

Failure - Hot Traveler by Failure Band on YouTube

The band hit the road for the first time since a 2016 jaunt celebrating the 20th anniversary of Fantastic Planet that featured the band performing the entire album from beginning to end, embarking on a co-headlining tour with British alt-rock contemporaries Swervedriver and playing another round of new music drawn from the series of EPs issued by the band in 2018 that came to completion with the full album/EP compilation In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind. Another triumphant exploration of the band's moody, atmospheric brand of space rock, the new collection stands firmly alongside the trio's best work.

The following year, the band announced plans for a 6 LP reissue box set entitled Failure 1992–1996 which featured remastered versions of their first three albums along with an additional record of outtakes and rarities as well as several planned live residencies where the trio would perform all three efforts in their entirety, but the pandemic delayed production of the sets and forced the cancellation of the concerts (though the limited edition boxes did eventually ship to fans late last year). 

Water with Hands by Failure - Topic on YouTube

Failure would use the lockdown to their advantage, focusing on writing and recording new material that made up their latest acclaimed album, Wild Type Droid, that came out last December. The taut, concise collection of ten tunes continues Failure's remarkable track record of mixing heady atmospheres, indelible melodies and flashes of pulverizing riffs into their trademark sound. For this show at the Great American Music Hall Thursday night, the band will be screening a 30-minute cut of a forthcoming documentary on Failure that will see release next year. 

Thursday, July 7, 8 p.m. $27
Great American Music Hall

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.