FOAM are well known for their heavy, wall of sound grunge music, and debut album Coping Mechanisms is no different. But there is so much more to Coping Mechanisms, and evidently the band, than that. The album is delicate, melodic and hugely diverse, ranging from jangly British style proto-punk to abrasive, raucous art rock.
Coping Mechanisms was recorded and mixed by Andy Lawson at Debaser Studios and mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Services. The captivating cover artwork by Mow Skowz, nicely conveys the impression of the album, that being; a disorderly, deranged, intricate and beautiful beast.
Opener Mass Chew starts off as a charming, fragile number with sporadic percussion work and synth laden soundscapes which are accompanied by Joel Martin’s understated vocals, with the song nicely building into a resonant grunge section.
From there the album gets heavier. Get on Board is full of proto-punk inspired guitar work, accompanied by the screeching voice of Martin, which is full of desperation and authentic wildness.
Body Into Mine is a jarring, ferocious grunge track which captures the fierce energy the band delivers live. It is hard not to compare Martin’s voice to Craig Nicholls (The Vines) when in full vitriol and Kurt Cobain when more sombre – and that is one hell of a compliment.
The Gift of Guilt delves into raw garage and shows the band’s talent for diversity in songwriting whilst still creating a cohesive sound using impeccable guitar tone. The female harmony adds an intimate dimension that works well within the premise of the song. The disparate feminine voice against Martin’s masculine is reminiscent of the workings of guilt and the opposing forces which usually cause it.
Cope and Snake Warning are guitar driven psychedelic instrumentals which cement the bands noise rock reputation.
I Could Milk Myself is the stand out track on the album. More orthodox in progression than some of the other songs, it is wonderfully catchy and accessible. It is also complex and spirited enough to keep the critical listener interested.
We Don’t Live in the U.S.A.is a fast-paced, jam-packed thrasher with roots that nod to British indie rock, especially the raspy nonchalant stylings of Martin’s vocals. Eat Your Family also starts on ajangly indie rock root before delving into the grungier side of garage rock, which is where the band seems most at home.
The album finishes with another stand out track, the almighty; When Does It Get Better, which builds progressively throughout until breaking into a despairing and furious swell of guitar, percussion and abrasive screaming.
When Does It Get Better is highly emotive and is a nice closer to summarise the impeccably timed and highly skilled drumming by Jackson Hawdon, the intricate and vigorous guitar work from Joel Martin as well as the thunderous and rhythmic bass stylings of Harley Barnaby, though most notably – how poetically and seamlessly they all work together.
There are references in the lyrics to finding ways to live with who you are, and in a way the album feels like a journey of understanding yourself; sweeping from the sweet feelings of acceptance and peace, to the painful sorrow and then to the anguish and rage – oh the rage!
The album’s diversity showcases wide-ranging influences, musical intellect and other expansive talents – especially in writing songs that zig when you expect them to zag and capturing manic energy.
It’s this diversity, Martin’s enigmatic voice and the raw musical talent that gives Coping Mechanisms and FOAM the edge over many of their Perth, and further afar, alt-rock counterparts.