Dream pop and shoegaze were signature aesthetics of the 1990s. Bands like My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, Ride, The Sundays, and Slowdive were all the rage in alternative culture. Many smaller acts took inspiration from this and ran with it, infusing the core elements of these rock subgenres into their own, unique sound.
For the short lived family band Chasing Furies, their 1999 album With Abandon—the only piece of work they’d release as a group—fused the angelic vocal qualities of dream pop with instrumentation laced with both shoegaze and jangle rock fundamentals. They created a distinctive sound that most artists in similar industry circles avoided. Though their time as a group didn’t last long, their work boasts potent musicality and poetic, thought provoking lyrics, making With Abandon a lost treasure of the era.
The album opens with the band’s incredible single “Thicker.” If pianist Rachel Meeker’s emotive opening melody wasn’t enough to mesmerize, lead singer Sarah MacIntosh’s haunting voice grips listeners within seconds as her words float off the tune like mystic fibers dancing in the air. MacIntosh seems to speak from the point of view of the father in the Prodigal Son story, awaiting the return of his beloved child. “I seemed to wait forever for you to return. I think you found someone else to talk to. Maybe someone like me, someone like me. I call out to you. I reach out to you through the haze…” The song slowly builds to the pinnacle moment where MacIntosh shifts her beautiful, atmospheric tone into a state of pure frenzy. There’s palpable intensity and urgency behind her final thought as she sings, “Was it something about the clearness here? Was it easy to accept as it is? Should it be thicker with more thought about it? Lost before…should have recognized the familiar scent of the fog drifting in. Here it comes now…”
After “Thicker” comes the Cranberries-inspired track “Throw Me.” MacIntosh and Meeker create reflective, buttery soft harmonies in the chorus as they sing about being unaware of losing control until they’re practically drowning in their trouble. “And I, and I don’t look at you when the light is shining. And I, and I don’t feel warm until the water’s lapping against my feet, around my knees, around my waist.” One skill that Chasing Furies perfected was conveying faith-inspired lyrics that were not overly specific or direct—their words feel like evocative poetry that could touch anyone regardless of where they are spiritually.
“I Would Drown” brings on a whole new set of textures as guitarist Joshua Meeker steps up to lead vocals. Unlike the first two tracks on With Abandon, this song could snuggle up between My Bloody Valentine and Catherine Wheel in the shoegaze genre, with heavy distorted guitars and a filter vocal tracking. Meeker delivers a strong yet delicate performance, showcasing Chasing Furies’ capable reach into multiple facets of these alternative rock categories. Following “I Would Drown” is the lullaby sounds of “Fair Night’s Longing,” “Enchanted,” which provides similar vibes to 10,000 Maniacs, and the garage rock infused one-off tune “I Surrender.”
Joshua Meeker is back at the helm at the climax of With Abandon, providing a shoegaze-steeped slow burner, “Romance Me.” The instrumentation transports listeners to a hazy, spinning place while he sleepily sings lines like “We could give it all away and still be happy. Lose the night, lose the day and run away. Until you say ‘romance me’, dance around the room…” Meeker’s vocal performance elevates the lyrics as though they’re being painted across this haze, making them almost tangible. He’s by far the hidden gem of this band, achieving the poignant signature shoegaze aesthetic just as well as fellow musicians of his time.
“Writhe for Hearing” feels like something inspired by Lush’s debut album Spooky, with MacIntosh and Rachel Meeker once again colliding their dreamy voices to provide a silky, ear-pleasing, harmonious cocktail during the chorus of the tune. The album finishes out with three quiet, mellow tracks: “Nothing,” “Whisper Softly,” and “Wait Forever.” Though they’re the least intense songs found on With Abandon, they manage to bring the overall energy of it to a peaceful, calming close.
It’s a shame the world didn’t get to see more from this progressive, talented group. In just one album, they manage to demonstrate not only their cohesiveness as a band, but also their vocal integrity, their lyrical mastery, and their ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow shoegaze and dream pop groups who were leaps and bounds ahead of them in popularity. Though With Abandon has sadly been overlooked for so many years, it holds a timeless sound that many still strive to reach, and many still crave to hear.