Gain Fast’s first album came out in 2007 with a decent amount of commotion—a new concoction of musically inclined, fresh-faced guys with a heart for alternative (possibly Christian) rock. What’s not to like?
But it was entirely by accident and surprise that I learned of the group’s second album Tas nav uz zemes šīs, which came out in 2008 somewhat quietly and with unfortunately little to show for itself. That being said, what one might expect to be a “big bang” before Gain Fast would be put on pause instead, for the most part turns out to be a little lethargic and disappointing.
Since then there hasn’t been much said of the group and, after putting out its sophomore effort the guys decided to take a “well-deserved break.” Several of the group’s members are trying their hands at different projects, among them lead singer Kaspars Zlidnis, who not only has put out a solo single, but has started making on-screen appearances (as the host of the Latvian youth reality TV show “Jaunie Rīgas sargi” (The New Defenders of Rīga) as well as starring in the movie Somebody).
Tas nav uz zemes šīs came out after the release of three singles, “Smaids” (Smile), “Cik laimīgi esam” (How Lucky We Are) and the title track “Tas nav uz zemes šīs” (It’s Not in this World). Gain Fast is made up of Zlidnis (vocals), Didzis Bardovskis (bass), Andžejs Grauds (drums), Gatis Vanags (guitar) and Oskars Tretjuks (keyboard).
The first track of Tas nav uz zemes šīs, “Man nevajag sirdi” (I Don’t Need a Heart), has a funk underbeat to it and is very laid back. But it completely lacks the drive of the first album and does nothing to make me want to keep listening on. The only reason I do keep listening is because I’m waiting for Track 3, “Cik laimīgi esam.”
“Cik laimīgi esam” would technically be my favorite track of the album, though in hindsight I understand it’s more for how the song sounds instead of what it is. The lyrics aren’t all that original. In truth what first drew me to the song was the music video for it. Catchy ‘80s guitar and keyboard combinations lead you through a message about how people take their lives for granted and how even when something is going well, we’re reluctant to admit this is so. I take the song as a nice homage to the double-negative way of looking at the world that Latvians are so accustomed to expressing. The sound is a little reminiscent of the group’s first album, and is at least more dynamic than the first track. I also definitely suggest checking out the corresponding music video.
After that the album is rather unrefined sounding. There are parts where I actually cringe at what I’m hearing and I start to think I know why the album wasn’t highly publicized. Although the album has merit in that each song is different from the last, there isn’t a lot to write home about, unless you count cynical cut-downs. Like the title track? Gaaah! Longest four minutes and 15 seconds of my life. But then oh, scratch that, because I hadn’t been introduced to Track 10 yet.
Another of the album’s “hits” is “Smaids,” which has a more polished sound to it, but is relatively sappy for my tastes. The song is, however, a bit more of a favorite than “Cik laimīgi esam” because of the lyrics: “Vārdu tik daudz šai pasaulē, bet izmantojam mēs tikai nedaudz no tiem. Vai vēlies būt vel tuvāk, vel mazliet tuvāk tikai nedaudz?”
It’s kind of a despair-ridden questioning plea that does pull on the heartstrings. The song also sounds less cookie-cutter because of the breaks in Zlidnis’ voice as he belts out the higher notes. It’s the most grown-up and real sounding piece of the album.
What irks me the most about this compact disc is the incessant use of words like life, heart, love, feelings and togetherness. No, I’m neither jilted nor an emotional void; I’ve cried during a peanut butter commercial before. These words just strike a chord and leave me with two disturbing thoughts: 1) are these words that the music business thinks tween and teenage girls want to and will swoon over? and 2) Dear Lord, are these words that I, as a teenage girl, swooned over?
It’s at this point that I wonder if it’s OK to feel embarrassed or want to take back my gushing response to the band’s first album in 2007, Viss mainījies. But then I go back and listen it and see that there has been a gross decrease in quality. Tas nav uz zemes šīs sits stunted in comparison to its older sibling. Luckily, such online music stores as Platforma Music or DoReMi provide picky listeners such as myself the option of only buying the few tracks that stand out.
The music is all over the place and not in a good way. I can’t really make heads or tails of all of it, minus the two songs I’ve mentioned favorably. True, there are a few bits that are nice touches, such as the choral ending to Track 6, “Saules gaisma” (Sunlight), and the excellent guitar line to the closing track, “Miega dziesma” (Lullaby). The most pressing matter would seem to be for the group to invest in a Latvian thesaurus, or maybe read some of Latvia’s great poets for inspiration in the usage of words. Different ones. Latvian is a rich smorgasbord of literary language, but Gain Fast seems to have skipped out on the buffet and is snacking on power bars.
Tas nav uz zemes šīs
Platforma Records, 2008
Man nevajag sirdi
Cik laimīgi esam
Par spīti cerībām un sapņiem
Ir kāds vārds
Tas nav uz zemes šīs
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