Bleach called it quits last Fall and sealed the deal with an unforgettable final show in August, 2004. Their latest, and last studio recording is the aptly titled Farewell Old Friends. Reuniting the band with their Again, For The First Time producer, Oran Thornton, Farewell Old Friends is surprisingly a more mellow and more melodic effort. Instead of going out with their guns blazing, Farewell is a modest yet strong final bow.
Farewell Old Friends opens humbly with "Write It Down." A sort of declaration of rememberance and teaching, "Write It Down" is classic Bleach on its most pensive level. Bleach has been a band to always successfully bring together the topics of relationships and Christianity in a way that's relevant and easy to relate to and this record is no exception. Melody is a big part of what Farewell Old Friends is all about musically. But Bleach takes each song a step further than they normally would, often going as far as extending the conclusion of the song with an unnaturally long guitar riff ("To The Top"), drawing out the finish, turning it up a bit ("Gonna Take Some Time"), or by turning a ballad into a ten-minute worship session ("Sufficient").
The delectable guitar licks of "Clear The Air" mark the crest of the rock brilliance on Farewell Old Friends. While "Write It Down," "Took It By The Hand," "To The Top," and "Good As Gold" have a definite rock presence, the songs trade the anthemic memorability that Again, For The First Time offered for more modest sentiment-driven songs. This is in no way a problem, however. In fact, it may serve a band like Bleach more effectively. The closer, "Farewell Old Friends," is heavy on emotion and is musically one of the most beautiful songs the band has ever written. "Condition" is also a wonderful piano-driven pop ballad that heightens with a lovely string arrangement and female vocal accompaniment. At the same time, "Sufficient" is an incredible gem and a treat that will be most appreciated by the fans. This worshipful masterpiece begins as an original ballad before revisiting the ingenious "Knocked Out" from Again, For The First Time (which was arguably one of the best songs the band has ever written). Finally, fans will indeed get a kick out of the raw and silly rendition of the Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere" that appears as the album's hidden track.
As a whole, Farewell Old Friends is a real bittersweet album. While it's easy to want and even expect a more raucous final outing than the more reflective nature presented here, Farewell Old Friends is appropriately written. As one of the finer rock acts in Christian music, Bleach bows out graciously and respectfully. Knowing Farewell Old Friends will most likely be the last new studio album to ever bear the Bleach name is a painful realization. But the band brings back the good times one last time indeed with Farewell Old Friends, and is a gift from a group of guys we will all greatly miss.- Review date: 2/27/05, written by John DiBiase
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