No, not Lee Major’s late ex-wife. I’m talking about the knock out band from London that put out four albums between 2000 and 2010 and then dropped out of sight. I discovered Farrah in 2007 when a casual listen of “School Reunion” from that year’s Cut Out and Keep turned me into a big fan. I loved the over-the-top sweetness of the sentimentality, cut by just a hint of genuine pathos. The song’s story of a wanna-be musician who takes to the big city but fails could be seen as Farrah’s own story as none of their albums took off in the UK or North America (though, I kid you not, they are actually big in Japan!). Of course, the band’s decision to blaze a trail as a self-distributing independent group probably limited their exposure as they were arguably too far ahead of the social media curve to made it work. Still, the band’s catalogue is a success if creating great poprock is the measure.
Farrah’s debut album, Moustache, has a Fountains of Wayne power pop sound with a number of strong tracks like “Terry,” “Living for the Weekend,” and “Talk about Nothing.” Three years later Me Too seemed to slow things down as the band experimented with slower material like “First and Last,” “Half as Strong,” and their great moody cover of Joe Jackson’s “It’s Different for Girls.” But for me, it all comes together on Cut Out and Keep, an album that has the band in firm control of their own distinctive sound. The album shifts effortlessly between uptempo Squeeze-esque numbers like “No Reason Why” or the more FOW sounding “Fear of Flying” to wonderful acoustic songs like “As Soon as I Get Over You” and “Things We Shouldn’t Say.” They blast the calculation and insincerity of the music business brilliantly on “Dum Dum Ditty.” I could go on – there really isn’t a weak track on the album.
In 2010 the band released another strong record, the self-titled Farrah, and it was also full of would-be hits. The hooky “Swings and Roundabouts” was the obvious single but other uptempo highlights include “Stereotypes” and “If You Were Mine.” The album also has quite a few more languid, Beatlesque acoustic numbers like “DNA,” “Wasting Time,” and the wistful “Sleep Above the Covers.” But my favourite track is banjo-driven story song “Scarborough,” with its spot on rendition of awkward office romance.