Failure - Magnified (1994), 7/10

Magnified represents Failure's first real experimentation with space rock and psychedelia. Although it is similar in inconsistency to its predecessor Comfort, it has more successes than failures, and foreshadows the band's shift in direction while simultaneously developing a more individual sound. "Moth" offers a great percussive performance, a standout for Dargahi as a replacement for Gauss who left during the recording of the record. While the more straight forward percussion performances work in concert with the complex guitar and bass, or even vocal, compositions, at times it can be a detriment to otherwise too simple song structures on tracks like "Magnified", "Undone" and "Let It Drip". The more complex playing on tracks like "Moth" and "Bernie" clearly add individual value and separate them in a positive light in comparison. On that note, the most successful song from start to finish is perhaps "Bernie", a supremely surreal tale and one that exemplifies all of the best qualities of Failure's sound on Magnified and what they would continue to expand on in the future. "Wonderful Life" offers the same kind of energy as "Bernie" with a bit of a cynical twist and another, albeit similar, approach to distortion. "Small Crimes" is a fantastic closing track with it's droning heavy bass and beautiful flourishing guitar. Failure has remained solid through the years, but this feels like an early success in both songwriting and overall sound for the band as a unit, and a clear development after the more raw and simple Comfort. It is even more impressive considering the new responsibilities for leading man Ken Andrews as well as Greg Edwards, contributing so many performances and also a newfound control in the studio. The album certainly feels more psychedelic than their debut, although it is still significantly tethered to alt rock and grunge ideals, sometimes to its detriment when pursuit of new sounds and experimentation could have been more thoroughly explored. The riffs are hit or miss, luckily hitting well enough more than the occasional blunder in composition, and the rhythm section typically determines the worth of most of the stronger tracks. While it is not an outright success in terms of creating a masterwork in rock music, it is another solid alternative rock record from Failure, and one that helps them find new footing in preparation for another shift in sound. Magnified is an agreeably effortless experience and essential listening for the era.