In rock, supergroup status is relative. Nineties-era Kansas City trio the Farewell Bend didn’t exactly boast the starry pedigree of a Traveling Wilburys, or even a Minuteflag. But for fans of the members’ prior projects — Boys Life and Giants Chair, two like-minded KC outfits that each found unique ways of combining post-hardcore crunch with heartfelt vulnerability — their first and only LP, 1998’s In Passing, represented a welcome opportunity to hear how a “What if …?” inter-band collaboration might play out.
Out of print for years, In Passing is back out on vinyl and digital — and now streaming for the first time ever — thanks to Seattle label Spartan, which also released the first Giants Chair album in more than two decades a couple years back. Opening track “Heads Down” gives a good idea of how Farewell Bend members Brandon Butler, John Rejba, and Paul Ackerman brought together signature elements from their earlier work. Butler plays a chiming guitar intro, giving way to an explosive entrance from Rejba’s bass and Ackerman’s drums. Butler’s vocals have the same pinched, wistful quality heard in his work with Boys Life, but while that band often offset its raging climaxes with moody builds and gentle interludes — as heard on their outstanding ’96 swan song, Departures and Landfalls — the Farewell Bend favored a raucous, high-energy stomp. In Boys Life, Rejba teamed with John Anderson, a drummer with a jazzy, atmospheric style; here, matched with Ackerman, who always brought a relentless drive to Giants Chair, he sounds both muscular and craftily melodic. Lyrically, Butler, known for mining bittersweet nostalgia in Boys Life, adopts a more biting tone, seemingly sending up youthful apathy: “It is the craze with all the kids nowadays/Heads down/I am in touch with all the world and I’ve got my TV on.”
Like the rest of the LP, “Heads Down” commemorates an era of underground/alternative rock where catchiness and brawn were perfectly aligned. These days, as the loosely defined emo aesthetic continues to be catalogued in near-academic detail, In Passing deserves mention among acknowledged Nineties classics like Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary, Texas Is the Reason’s Do You Know Who You Are?, and Braid’s Frame and Canvas.
Like a lot of bands either putting out new records or reissuing old ones in 2020 or 2021, the Farewell Bend had planned to be on the road supporting In Passing 2.0 (which boasts a fresh remaster and a bonus track previously available only on an obscure split seven-inch). They were originally booked for the Fest, Gainesville, Florida’s annual punk blowout, in fall 2020; that’s currently scheduled for raincheck dates in October. If all goes down as planned, the Farewell Bend will play In Passing in full there. Chances are, anyone who’s waited more than 20 years to see them back onstage won’t mind sitting tight for another eight months.