Welcome to Wonderland. A world meticulously crafted by the minds of Forgive Durden, lies, deceit, greed, and lust lay within. The picture of Wonderland is painted with vivid lyrical imagery provided by Forgive Durden in their debut full-length. In one of the most diverse records to come out in recent memory, Forgive Durden brings their own musical style to several different musical genres, including takes on country, tango, and pop. But intertwined into all these styles is a distinctive sound that the band has made for themselves. Showing influences from Gatsby’s American Dream, Wonderland is full of accented off-beats and chromatic progressions, adding another band from Seattle who follows in Gatsby’s tech-rock footsteps. But the comparisons should end there. While listeners may hear similarities in certain chords or guitar stylings, virtually every song on Wonderland contains a chorus and Forgive Durden takes their musical exploration far beyond the expected scope.
Wonderland begins with a bang with the quickly paced “Ants” and the now revamped version of “Beware the Jub Jub…” Not only are these two songs full of memorable choruses, but they both provide depictions of corporate greed. “Beware the Jub Jub…” contains a distinctive progressive crawl with a resonating chorus that continues the theme of Wonderland. Lines like “I want to sink my teeth into/skin I can’t see through” are metaphors for real situations, and it starts to become evident that Wonderland is a depiction of our modern day society, painted in a unique limelight by Forgive Durden.
Aside from the fantastic lyrics, the musicianship is exceptional. This first manifestation occurs on “Ear to Ear,” a blast of tech-rock complete with horns, saxophones, a mandolin, and start-stop downbeats, all transitioning into a nice, poppy chorus. The verses are exceptional and completely unpredictable – this song is one of many on Wonderland that takes unexpected turns, and while each song contains a chorus, the timing and overall structure of songs will leave listeners guessing. “Ill Tango Della…” contains verses written in tango style while providing a deep lyrical story. It’s just another example of how clear a picture Forgive Durden paints – the song speeds up while escalating into an emphatic percussion solo to end the song. While there were teaser animations made to promote the release of Wonderland, songs like these have convinced me that Wonderland could easily be the soundtrack to a musical. One can’t help but visualize actual events happening while listening to the music. This quality alone sets the record apart from the pack, and that’s just the beginning.
Wonderland refuses to lose steam after the halfway point, as “The Great Affair is to Move,” marches forward with emphatic downbeats and hand-claps. “For a Dreamer…” is a brilliantly crafted pop song that is instantly contagious, with excellently layered backing vocals in both the verse and chorus. While the song begins with the appearance of pop-rock, Forgive Durden refuses to be predictable as midway through the song a complete transformation occurs. A punching chromatic ascension builds with cries of “Extra! Extra! Read all about it…” Wonderland winds down nicely with the absolutely stunning track “I’ve Got a Witch Mad at Me…” This somber track uses piano and crescendos to build into an emotional chorus once again filled with lyrical imagery. “Cue the Sun” concludes Wonderland with another somber song that sweeps into a grandiose finish to a superb album.
There are very few flaws to Wonderland. It is a tad bit short, as the journey seems like it’s over before it even began. The last two songs are fantastic but are both slow and seem slightly out of place next to each other. That being said, this is a completely different band from their previous work. Thomas’s voice has matured greatly and is smooth and confident, the songwriting is years ahead of their time, and the production is easily Casey Bates’ finest work to date – not overdone, but has enough bells and whistles to help Forgive Durden achieve their story telling.
Wonderland is one of those albums that people will be talking about for years. Forgive Durden is a band, much like Gatsby’s American Dream, that stands out from the scene with their unique approach. Technical, diverse, ambitious, and addicting, Wonderland will make Forgive Durden a buzz band in the community. Buckle up and prepare for quite the journey – Welcome to Wonderland.