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On Fire

November 29, 2010

‘Where did you get the name for your blog?’ is what literally two people have asked me. Embarrassingly, given that I half-inched the name from the band called The Fire Show, one person who has asked is Seth, one of the members of that band. So, to clarify: this blog is in no way associated with the band of the same name, who I discovered through Pitchfork’s review of their superlative final album, the winningly-titled Saint the Fire Show (thus the address for this blog too). It’s a skronky, ramshackle record, alternately terrifying and charming, at one turn all sung-shouted lyrics and discordant chord blasts, at the other a disarmingly open falsetto voice on creeping scattershot instrumentation. ‘The Rabbit of My Soul is the King of his Ghost’ starts with a fearsome proclamation from singer M. Resplendent (I think this may be a pseudonym), “My dad died like he was a baby” and goes from there into a cut-up nightmare of angry mourning, ending up with Resplendent’s griefstricken shouts about the questions his loss leaves him with (at least that’s how it sounds to me). Another favourite is ‘Dollar and Cent Supplicants’: “Give me good directions to the bottom of the ocean,” Resplendent croons; “Give me good directions that will never fail”, before a snatched backwards-playing of an operatic voice leads the song into a great echoing canyon of radio white-noise, static and babble, beyond which he continues faintly, so sweetly and eerily, to ask for directions.

There’s certainly a gloomy theme to proceedings, though the lyrics aren’t always moribund — in fact they recall Pavement-era Stephen Malkmus, both in their jumbled, literate formation and Resplendent’s delivery of them. The sprightly twinkling at the start of ‘Useless Romo Cravings’ (another theft-worthy title) is perhaps as close as this record gets to upbeat or joyful, but any sense it’s too dark elsewhere is allayed by the titanic finale, a cover of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ which starts with the noise of a heavy anchor being groaningly drawn up from the deeps, and proceeds to raise the bar on doomy interpretations of that song so far that Low’s version (on I Could Live in Hope) sounds positively cheerful. Nobody has ever sounded quite so craven and defeated on this song, which seems beamed from a postapocalyptic world where the plea is more literal than anything, sung by the survivor on a planet whose star is dwindling to a cinder. Fat brass horns blare through the desolation of the final moments, reminiscent of Bowie’s air-raid saxophone skirling amid the bleak atmospherics of Low and “Heroes”, but listening, you know it’s already too late.

As to the name: I always found the phrase “the fire show” evocative (not realising, as Googling reveals, that it was an unfamiliar synonym for the rather more pedestrian phrase ‘fireworks night’), it seeming somehow to have the tone of a David Means story title about it, and it leapt out when I was trying to select a name for the blog. Seth has very graciously not requested I change the name, but instead provide the link to (the real) The Fire Show’s site, where you can download these excellent songs and others, and where video footage of the band will soon be available.

Thanks, Seth.

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