April 14, 2005

VHS or Beta: Night on Fire

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Fuck Guns N’ Roses. They were great 13 years ago, but then again, so was Michael Jackson. I’m getting really tired of waiting for G&R’s Chinese Democracy which after eight years of waiting patiently, is never going to be released. Fuck Velvet Revolver. They’re like the U.S. Basketball Team this past Olympics, so much talent squandered into an unforgivably mediocre result. I’ve been waiting for that incendiary philosophic-proto-punk glazed music to rock out to from my roof at night, looking at the stars and getting in touch with my inner David Lee Roth. VHS or Beta? The name’s a bigger turn-off than Fran Drescher’s voice. The foursome formed in 1997 in Louisville, Kentucky, but their electrical guitar solos and drum machines could convince you that they formed in 1983 in London. Night on Fire is the quartet’s third effort, following 1998’s On & On and 2002’s Le Funk. They are going for the jugular with their revival of dance punk, house music, keyboard post-disco pop. To give you an idea of their general sound, if Hollywood were to remake Real Genius, these guys would score the soundtrack.

Four of the album’s ten tracks are full-on instrumentals, crossing Daft Punk with the Liquid Tension Experiment. While these efforts might seem unnecessary at first listen, they give the album a rolling thunder in its chugging rhythm that turns the disc into a simultaneously archaic and balanced electronica opera. “Irreversible” is the closing nine-minute score that is as genuine of a send-off as any. The structure of Night on Fire reminds me of Green Day’s American Idiot. The two sound nothing alike, but they peak early and late, while showcasing the vintage rock you were expecting in between. The boisterous chorus and Craig Pfunder’s melancholy storm of lyrics and guitar licks in the title track convince the listener they’re in an aerobics class led by the members of AC/DC. “Forever” is the beautiful eurotrash, effervescing a Kylie Minogue beat with more contrasting and battling instrumentals. Throughout Night On Fire, I envisioned this Robert Johnson, guitarist vs. the world image. And these guys have so much more than just a guitar with them. It’s a collective spree of harmonies whose source genres have, up until now, been nothing more than dead metaphors.

Then you get to “Alive,” the epiphany track and the only one structured as a genuine alternative rock piece. How I wish they threw more songs like “Alive” into the mix; happily, confidently screaming teenage angst, truism and sensibility in an open sea of rock sentiment. VHS or Beta have a chemistry that The Darkness, Kings of Leon, The Bravery, The Go Find and The Killers all lack. They connect, they get you off and they bring you back to a place you’ve been missing for quite some time. Fire is a classic the way a movie-goer would call the newly released Sin City a classic. Both are iconoclastic for their artistic medium. But they bring with them an outlook, an energy and individuality that you can’t find anywhere else, somehow being dark and colorful all at once. Night on Fire is the truth. Unless you’re deaf, I recommend you go out and buy this album… now

Archived article by Dan Cohen
Sun Staff Writer