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
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
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
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.