Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries
The moniker for Portland’s Tom Filepp – Cars & Trains – is suggestive of motion, and his third full-length album certainly carries a bit of forward momentum. If you took folksy, acoustic sounds and married them with digital beats, you’d get an idea of the sound behind We Are All Fire, a sound that might get you reaching for the bedroom anthems of a Broken Social Scene (there are horns present here, which bolsters that comparison) meeting the glitchy-ness of a Postal Service with the broad panorama of a Modest Mouse. With references to natural phenomena – there are bird sightings on the record, along with namechecks of oceans, trees, stars, wind and storms – We Are All Fire, as an album, has a scope, a reach and a certain focus. This is bolstered by the fact that there are no less than three versions of the title track that appear as well.
Where this long-player falls down is with the fact that Filepp seems to either not have a sense behind how to end a song properly, or else he just gets bored of the ditties he’s conjuring up and has a habit of just aborting them mid-stream. Only one song here reaches beyond the five-minute mark (“Ten Thousand Ships”) and it is among the most successful as it feels robust and complete. Otherwise, there are fragments of sonic detritus to be found here, which makes We Are All Fire feel a little on the half-baked side, particularly in its mid-section. That’s a shame, because Filepp certainly has ambition and has a nice rugged, deep voice that yearns and is cavernous. If he loses the habit to hit the stop button on his recorder before getting through a song, his Cars & Trains project might truly go somewhere beyond the bedroom.