October 9, 2003

Test Spin: The Fire Theft

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When I think Sunny Day Real Estate, I hear the high pitched squeals of Jeremy Enigk desperately trying to purge his intense feelings. Inevitably, they come out as personal, clumsy lyrics. He’s searching, struggling to make some sense out of things. The heavy distortion of the electric guitars obscure his awkward vocals and are almost his masochistic response to his inability to do justice to what he writes about. SDRE was my inner child. They had me on my knees going, “Yes! YES!!” at the lyrical climax, “we’ll play guitar and video games.” The band’s music was grand and sweeping, launching a cult of emo-kids before they disbanded.

Now I sit here looking at Mr. Enigk’s crotch on the cover of his new album, which unfolds to reveal a picture of the band. They’ve hopped onto the trend. After releasing albums with obscure cover art, they’ve released one with a picture of themselves. Jeremy’s got a smirk on his face. He seems sure of himself. He’s got Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith of SDRE with him again for a rebirth of sorts. Under the moniker of The Fire Theft, the distorted guitars are traded in for lush string arrangements, which rather than obscuring his vocals, single them out. He sings his advice to us, “don’t burden your life when you can fill it up with joy,” rather than capturing the struggle that goes along with trying to do it. If he’s happier, then I’m happy for him, but for the first time I’m not with him. I’ll cry if I ever see Steven Albini smiling on the cover of an “adult contemporary” Shellac album.

Archived article by Deepal Chadha