Tonight is a night of mourning, because I am reviewing The Format, who I love and have no more. They are the biggest teases ever…giving us but two albums and then splitting. I know when I’m unwanted! These two albums, however, are two of the best, most personal albums I have ever owned. So, I forgive them for the split.
Anyway, many of you may already know and love The Format, in which case you should probably honor them with me by listening to their albums on repeat and looking into fun., Nate Ruess’s brand new band, who actually toured with Manchester Orchestra and who Eric got to see in concert while I listened to top-40 radio in Hampton Roads. However, many of you may not have heard The Format because you are too young or were too uncool in high school/college to listen to them. It’s okay. I was uncool at one time as well. Now is a time of celebration for you–and a time of spending money on some new albums. Listen up, kids.
My second favorite of The Format’s albums is their first album, Interventions and Lullabies (Elektra, 2003). In their first album, The Format begins showcasing what sets them apart from others–quite literally, the format of their songs. As far as I can tell from their lyrics, the band members seem to be personally acquainted with restlessness and change–one reason why I connect so deeply with them, I guess–and these qualities play a significant role in their music-making. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the bridge on “Let’s Make This Moment A Crime,” the general structure of “Sore Thumb,” and the surprising last minute or so of “Career Pay,” which by the way, is my favorite track. Just in case you were wondering. Beyond the interesting FORMAT (haha it never gets old!) of their music, their lyrics = genius. From “I’m Ready, I Am,” The Format hits what is important to me as an artist and listener: “I”m trying to find truth in words and rhymes and notes and all the things I wish I wrote”–isn’t that the point? Their twentysomething/graduate feelings are familiar…”old classmates please drop all your pens/don’t write a word caus i won’t reply/i’m not bitter no it’s just i’ve passed that point in my life” or “as for joe oh i’ve seen him around/then there’s adam/he’s afraid to go out/i don’t blame him/i just wanted to go out to eat/then there’s mark goddamn i wish him the best/we were kids back then/as if we could progress/sometimes i, i just can’t sleep/thinking of the things we could have been.” I know, it sounds kind of emo. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Well, I feel like that a lot. So that’s enough.
Moving on, Dog Problems (The Vanity Label, 2006) is my favorite of the two albums, because at this point, the Format has grown into musical maturity. The interesting changes in FORMAT!! are not only in the bridge or the last thirty seconds of a song, but they keep occurring…not too many key changes because that is annoying as hell, but tempo and style…it’s incredibly intriguing, and incredibly ADHD-friendly, which is always nice. They have figured out how to use background vocals brilliantly (“I’m Actual” — great example) and have played with instrumentation. The melodies are interesting, the writing is creative, and it’s singable. So, that’s pretty fantastic. Because I’m a self-aware lyric whore, “Oceans” (“why am i scared of people in a room?/why can’t they see a good time/are the people close to you?/why don’t i just give in/have a drink and shake some hands…”) and “If Work Permits” (“now standing in a room/it’s filled with older folks/they’re pleading ‘baby listen’/and i scream as loud as anyone/but when asked to make a point/i tend to whisper”) are my favorite tracks on the album. They make me want to scream, I feel that way!!!!!!!!!! But I don’t, I just listen. Anyway, despite these being my favorite, the title track is amazing and in my opinion, puts all of the great characteristics about this band into one song. The lyrics, the swing to ballad style changes, the awesome instrumentation… it’s all here. And check it, yo. You can watch the video.
You can also listen to some of their songs on myspace, but really I’d just recommend buying the albums. You can probably get them cheap on Amazon. Is that cheap of me to mention? I don’t care. We’re poor, you probably are too.
I miss you, the Format…