December 4, 2008

The Fireman: Electric Arguments

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The Fireman’s Electric Arguments, the third installment from Paul McCartney and Youth’s experimental duo, foregoes the humdrum of traditional album structure in favor of a hypnotic sum of parts threaded together by thick, twangy guitar. McCartney’s influence, naturally, is overwhelming: There are echoes of Abbey Road in every other track change, along with snippets of the Eastern-style psyche-slide present on “Because” and “The Inner Light.” Electric Arguments, however, does not simply look to restate the Beatles’ already much-referenced canon; rather, it tries to explore farther, at once playing on listeners’ ’70s-rock nostalgia and their current obsession with the newest indie electronica. The album starts off strong, the solid wall of sound in “Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight” made all the more powerful by the finger-picked sweetness of “Two Magpies” immediately after. The real first pull, though, lies in the third track, “Sing the Changes,” a feel-good insta-single that grabs even the most hardened screamo kid by the lapels and makes him want to dance in the rain.
After the thrill of that euphoria, the sequence lulls a bit, falling into the comfortable banjo cadences of “Light from Your Lighthouse” and “Sun is Shining.” The beginning chords of “Dance Til We’ re High” sound jarringly like a Muzak Christmas carol, but it quickly recovers from that terror to grow into a compelling start to Electric Arguments’ infinitely more interesting second half. Catchy singles and easy-listening acoustics are delightful, but complex instrumentation, starting with the harmonica-bongo blend in “Lifelong Passion,” and including the layering percussion in “Lovers in a Dream” and a haunting flute solo in “Is This Love,” is what really marks choice moments in the album as extraordinary. Fittingly, Electric Arguments culminates with a hodgepodge of repeated croons and synth-cameos: an appropriately cheeky post-script to a strange but ultimately beautiful musical revue.