September 19, 2002

Test Spin: The Fire Show

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It starts with a sole voice, wavering in the silence. Echoes and bursts of guitar, violins, and noise fade in and out around the voice, but still the words are the centerpiece. Things slowly build and decline, creating structure only to take it apart again. It all ends with a feedback-heavy guitar jam. And all this is just the first song on the Fire Show’s new album, Saint the Fire Show.

Unfortunately, the rest of the disc is far less experimental, but thankfully no less compelling. The Fire Show take the conventional indie rock formula to a new level with their third (and most likely final) record, combining unusual bass-guitar-drums textures with extensive electronic manipulation. “Godforsaken Angels of Epistemology,” one of the many standout moments, is a prime example. A droning guitar is accompanied by glitchy, manipulated drums that form an almost hip-hop beat. The combination, along with M. Resplendent’s emotional, Modest Mouse-like vocals, make for a stellar track — especially when things take off into the atmosphere with some ragged guitar outbursts.

“Dollar and Cent Supplicants” demonstrates the band’s quieter side, with a haunting melody and samples of opera and radio static integrated into the pastoral instrumentation. On “Useless Romo Cravings,” the band’s sense of dynamics creates a rollercoaster ride of emotions, pairing off delicate piano tinkling with busy electronic percussion and passages of truly devastating guitar heroics. Resplendent raps out, “a river can’t resist from spilling its guts/ a shower of thoughts out all over the flood plain.”

The album ends with an unexpected cover of “You Are My Sunshine” that transforms the well-known song into a depressing 8-minute crawl that sounds like it’s on the verge of suicide. The final sound is a trombone coda, sad and military, leaving behind an impression of uncontrollable emotion — and a strong desire to hit the play button again.

Archived article by Ed Howard