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Shade Side Sunny Side

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Album Review

For their first album in six years, and seventh overall in 21 years, For Against have made a big change. Original guitarist Harry Dingman, who left the group after 1988's second album December, returns after 20 years, and has completely altered/overhauled the band's approach and sound in a fascinating way. His position in those decades in between was mostly manned by Steven "Mave" Hinrichs, who himself did a stunning job playing a thick, quick, ringing jangle pop style. The group mostly followed that lead. Now, Dingman's return has opened up For Against's stylistic approach to take in dollops of '80s Brit post-punk moody textural creativity, ranging from the echoey but harsh Comsat Angels of Sleep No More, whose influence is felt in the early going of Shade Side Sunny Side; to the harder side of Warsaw/Joy Division; to the more insular grace of Section 25 (whose "Friendly Fires" is covered); to the timeless beauty of Pale Saints, Seventeen Seconds-era Cure, and All Fall Down-era Sound. Dingman's playing is far more sophisticated and varied than the already impressive hyper spiderweb of guitar tones he once contributed years ago. Thus energized, leader Jeffrey Runnings' trademark staccato-note basslines and anguished/embittered/forlorn/flabbergasted lyrics anchor the band's previous strengths to all the new "shades" Dingman brings, as does rock-solid drummer Paul Engelhard, who adjusts to the lighter tones and tempos perfectly, yet still brings his own rapid-fire fills when applicable. The emotional complexity of Shade Side Sunny Side thus hits like a movie inside your head. Runnings himself seems less tormented by romantic and fraternal intrigues than in the past, singing lines such as "I never met a fraud like you" and the repeated "What happened to you?" with a philosophical detachment and bemusement he's never shown before. In this case, he lets those washes of Dingman's guitars, gathering and threatening from the distance and then suddenly swooping from above, to weave the tangled emotional web his word suggest — letting his own stabbing, stick-on-one-note bass and Engelhard's beatings on the tom-toms put the knife in your side. This is just a fabulous work, one of the most unnerving and yet often resplendently gorgeous records in some time. Every time it's played, it unfolds new layers of feeling, unlocking new mysteries of the clash between head and heart, and digs in harder with the simple clarity of its musical force.


Formed: 1984 in Lincoln, NE

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Nebraska's lone dream pop entry, For Against initially consisted of bassist and vocalist Jeffrey Runnings, guitarist Harry Dingman, and drummer Greg Hill. Dingman and Hill left after 1988's December to form the Millions, and they were eventually replaced by Steven "Mave" Hinrichs and Paul Engelhard after another lineup failed to work out. (Dingman returned in the 2000s.) Since its inception, Runnings' band consistently produced a drifting yet distinctly rhythmic sound, soldiering through the myriad...
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Shade Side Sunny Side, For Against
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