Fully Digested: #5 Fireworks, ‘Oh, Common Life’
ICYMI: Fully Digested is a weekly feature starting today and running until December 25th. We’re going to be reviewing/re-reviewing our top 5 albums of the year. For more details click here.
I can remember the moment that I fell in love with Fireworks very clearly. I had gone on a family camping trip and I was in my bunk in the camper giving ‘Gospel’ a first listen through. I didn’t get much further than “Xs On Trees” before I knew how much I loved this record. It consumed a huge part of my life. New music would come and go, and I would still find time to listen through that record at least once a day. I sang the praise of this record at every opportune moment. That record came out in 2011, and I listened to it every day until the middle of 2013. It was at that point that I was aching for something new from Fireworks.
More recently, I remember freaking out when Fireworks began teasing a new album. They took to twitter to post a picture of a record with no explanation. Not long after, the announcement of ‘Oh, Common Life’ came into my life like a hurricane. And I am so thankful that it did. Song stream after song stream hit you in the face until the entire record was available to listen to. This is the album that renewed my faith in this band one hundred times over.
I never did post a review of this record, and that was because I had to be sure that I didn’t like it just because it was a new Fireworks record. I needed to be sure that this was a record that after countless listens felt like something in it’s own, and not just what I had been anxiously expecting for just shy of a year. I wanted to make sure that the entirety of this review wasn’t as sappy and sentimental as those first two paragraphs are.
Fireworks has evolved in every sense of the word. This time around they’ve created a record that feels more adult, both thematically and sonically, than we’ve seen from them before. This is the most welcome change I could have asked for. They took the time to create something bigger, and more important than another ‘Gospel.’
The singalongs have been traded in for some of the most heartbreaking and thoughtful lyrics we’ve heard to date. I’ve found these just as easy to cling to, and sometimes even easier to belt out when nobody else is home. The piece that best captures this transition in the right light has to be “One More Creature Dizzy In Love.” The imagery that runs rampant through this track is haunting and incredibly chilling. I can honestly tell you that I’ve caught myself losing it when I hear Dave singing “Even strangers are asking you, What the hell is wrong with him?” His vocal delivery is just as in point as it’s ever been. I will question your judgement immensely if you try and argue that he doesn’t have one of the most beautiful voices in the genre.
Another one of the best traits of this record is that you can hear some of the risks they took in songwriting. For example, “Bed Sores” is arguably a straightforward pop song. The lyrics are still vivid and dark, but it’s darkness presented in a pristine pop song package. It’s this risk taking that still makes this record fun to listen to now, eight months after it’s initial release.
Once again, I’m going to tell you that this record is not ‘Gospel.’ That means so many different things to me. I’m happy that with ‘Oh, Common Life’ they took the time to grow, and do so as well as they have, but I don’t feel like this record is as monumental for me. Sure, there are songs that are incredible and stand out as leagues above the record for me. See “The Back Windows Down”, “Woods”, “Play ‘God Only Knows’ At My Funeral”, “One More Creature Dizzy In Love”, “The Sound of Young America”, and “Run, Brother, Run.” All of these are fantastically written songs that are some of the best to come out this year. However, ‘Gospel’ came into my life at just the right time. I was fresh out of high school and looking for something to cling to. And I found it in that record.
‘Oh, Common Life’ is a phenomenal record that deserves every ounce of praise that it’s received over the course of 2014. This record not only revived Fireworks the band, but renewed my love for the music they create. I’m sure that with time, this record will find itself a home a permanent home in my heart. Until then, I cannot wait to see what comes next for a band that grows so tremendously between releases. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another three years to find out. 4.5/5