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  St. The Fire Show  
  The Fire Show  
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My history with The Fire Show goes back a bit. It starts way back in 1997 or so (back in the days of The Point, R.I.P.) and being incredibly impressed with the live work of Number One Cup. Based on that performance and armed with the knowledge that half of The Fire Show were refugees from No. One Cup, i went and saw an early incarnation of The Fire Show play. I was blown away, so i bought their album. It freaked me out, but i can admit that it is a wonderfully crafted thing, if disturbing.

Then, this past summer, The Fire Show came back to ATL, to play for 30 minutes during the hectic IG Festival. And again, they blew me away. I have, since then, spent time tracking down their two other albums. This is the first one that i have found, but is actually their final album. It is, quite simply, stunning.

Let me start out by mentioning that The Fire Show apparently learned from their first self-titled release by bringing this album to a natural close. After the tension, darkness, and angst of nine intense songs, the whole thing ends with M. Resplendant singing "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine...". We all remember this childhood tune, and his delivery is exhausted: as if, after all the screaming and action and sheer frenzy of three Fire Show albums, he is worn out, and all he can do is sing a childhood melody, and ... let it all go.

I get a real feeling of release from this conclusion. It's not a "flowers und sunshine" happy ending, but it is an ending which indicates that life is liveable, after all. It is, truly, a beautiful moment.

I mention this first, because long-term EvilSponge readers will remember that i was honestly, psychologically bothered by the first Fire Show album, back in 2000. That album, although masterfully performed, was too dark for me to listen to over and over again, specifically because there was no resolution. Now, two albums later, i finally have that sense of resolution.

So St. The Fire Show, although brutally dark at times, ends on a positive note. Catharsis -- that's what it's all about. Okay, you ask, so the mood is improved by the cathartic nature of the ending. How is the music?

Different. Brilliant. Loud. The Fire Show don't want to do music like everyone else. For this, their final release, they are going to experiment. To play around. To have fun and to push boundaries at the same time. There are, literally, tons of sounds in here, from screeching guitars to synthesized strings to thudding drums to stalking basslines to ... well, many things i can't really identify. And all of it is mixed up, cut up, spliced together every which way. They did a remarkable job of producing this album. When one sound dominates, you know it is supposed to, and not that it is doing so accidentally.

There are so many things to talk about with St. The Fire Show, but i will restain myself and only mention the most noteworthy. But really, there is not a dull moment on the entire album.

The disc starts with M. Resplendent singing, a capella. Impressionist lyrics and echo, for almost a minute. Then strings come in, not to back him up, but to compete with him. To make their own noise in challenge to the noise of his voice. For the rest of the album, M. Resplendent's voice wanders through the music. It is almost as if the voice is one stream, and the music is another. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes one drowns out the other. Usually they compete, dynamically. It creates an interesting level of tension.

And his voice is, well, different. M. Resplendent doesn't sing per se. His vocals are something like a rhythmic poem, like what i imagine the ancient "oral tradition" poets must have sounded like. Except that rather than being about history, Resplendent's words are about despair, loss, and eventual rebirth.

And then there is Deviator Feels Like Crook. This is a pretty normal song of guitar and voice, and then, about 2 minutes in, there is a stunning interlude of acoustic guitar and low keyboard drone with intricate bass. The interlude goes on for a minute, as if the song is being rebuilt from scratch. Noisy frenzy leads to simple beauty which again builds to noisy frenzy, which then fades into the next song. This minute of sheer beauty amid the chaos is, well, mind blowing. Every time i listen to the disc i have to just stop and listen to this tune, not doing anything else. It is wonderful.

The next song is pretty good too. It's called Dollar and Cent Supplicants and is the quietest song on the album. Resplendent is almost singing in falsetto, and the melody he has here is very lovely. The brushed drums and light guitarwork combine to make this a nice little quiet number.

You need the quiet, because the next song, The Godforsaken Angels of Epistemology, is an awesome cacophany of distorted guitar and yelling. The beats here are so cut up and processed it almost sounds IDM, and the bass is played through several layers of distortion to create a low, rumbling fuzz. Loud, noisy, chaotic, and beautiful.

Finally, i want to mention Magellon was a Felon, which i remember them introducing live at IG. This is a groovy guitar rock tune that descends into a fascinating syncopation that reminds me of early Cure. Very nice.

But again, there is not a dull moment here: these are just examples of the sounds that make up St. The Fire Show. There is so much going on here, that if i took the time to describe it all this review would be really really long, and Brendan would be annoyed with me! So i'll leave it at that.

Now, after describing noise and cut-n-paste song creation and strange song structures, i know that some of you are screaming "pretentious art" at this. And yeah, i can kind of see that. And yet -- well, sometimes i am the one screaming "pretentious art", and this doesn't seem that way to me. St. The Fire Show comes across as honest and exploratory, not as pretentious. I cannot quantify this any -- it is just a feeling. As such, it is completely possible that i am full of shit. Maybe this is a painfully pretentious album, and the fact that the most notable auditory references are the early-80's post-punk i grew up with blinds me this pretension. Maybe.

Or maybe you just wouldn't know honesty if it bit you on your lilly-white ass! What do you think of that? At any rate -- we aren't going to get anywhere with that, so let me wrap this up.

Personally, i think this album is freaking brilliant and i thoroughly enjoy listening to it. There is so much going on in the music, so many layers, that it is possible to get lost in listening. Also, it's all very well done, combining fast rhythms, distortion, mellow guitar arpeggios, and a rich sense of melody into one holistic album that seems almost organic, as if it were alive.

This is very nice listening. It's a shame that this is The Fire Show's last album. I guess it is time for them to move on. I am very curious to see what will happen next though.

You, on the other hand, should go and find a copy. Really.

Related Links:

The Fire Show live on 18.Dec.2000.
The Fire Show, their self-titled debut album.
The Fire Show live at The IG Festival.


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