[2 December 2003]
Firewater Sullies America: An Invitation to Release or a Rejection of the Beyond?
Unexpectedly, I was forced to realign my top twenty bands and obsessions after being exposed to none other than the life-altering Firewater, comfortably positioned at Cleveland’s proverbial Grog Shop as the smashing finale to a long and tiresome Wednesday night. I was shamelessly breathless—partially from bliss and from the exhaustion that comes from shoving to the front. At times, their tunes reminded me of the soundtrack for Emir Kusturica’s Black Cat, White Cat—they are obviously inspired by Eastern European and Indian big band/celebrational wedding musika. Perhaps, even more inspired by the film music of Ennio Morricone (The Good the Bad and the Ugly) and John Barry (known well for his James Bond ditties). Who’s to say?
The lovely and languid vocalist Tod Ashley is equally appealing; the gritty, rough-around-the-edges lover comes out in us all. Tod courageously formed Firewater after the break-up of his seminal band Cop Shoot Cop, partially because he wanted to reinvent beauty for the jaded modern/post-modern man, or those who don’t even know where they fit into the grand scheme. His lyrics overflow with intelligence, insight, and brutish sensitivity. In addition, Tod rejects the classic vomit of our times: irony and apathy. He means what he says and vice versa, but he’s no sugar coater or ostentatious speaker of thornless roses. “Where did these messianic figures come from?” My first question to myself answered in the midst of my nightly paralysis—either the holy and unfettered fields of my own sloppy/personal dreams, the self-inflicted delusions of a girl sequestered in Ohio corn fields, or yes indeed: la dee da dee NYC.
Why should you revere them? The dirt is sexy; the mindless indulgent breed pushes the uptight listener to resign to their tsunami cha cha cha’s and their equator-inspired loosening of morale. Firewater understands the hard-earned value of the often forgotten yet timeless accordion, the arousing castanets, and the overbearing organ. Isn’t that enough? Maybe not. They harmoniously combine instruments such as the brazen trombone, the alto and tenor saxophone, and the traditional guitar and drums—giving each instrument its own tribute and a chance for their beloved audience to immerse themselves in their appreciation. In short, they fondle and stroke the underdog. Firewater adamantly supports such sometimes forgotten instruments, as well as acknowledging the anti-hero on a tight rope: the scalawag, vagabond, scamp, rogue, pariah, outcast, and the down-and-out. And yet, even though the lyrical content intensifies such marginal types, they are filtered to the audience synonymously in a failing and a hopeful double entendre. If you’ve miss their a.w.e.s.o.m.e. U.S. tour, be sure to catch the next flight to Europa and the U.K. this January and February 2004. And if we’re all auspicious, they will be coalescing with The Teenage Fan Club at the end of November, though this isn’t set in stone yet.
It is apparent why Firewater’s The Man on the Burning Tightrope was el numero uno on college radio stations across the globe, beginning June 17 (and now still respectably in the top ten, mind you). Are you happy yet? You should be. There is fine line between mediocre, placid contentment and accompanying sentiments that stem from most run-of-the-mill collegiate bands, indie rock, emo ruts…sigh—but to be genuinely happy (now, now, don’t underestimate the power of your own endorphins), to feel yourself unable to control the tapping of your scuffed shoes as it crawls up your skinny leg and takes over your body. You are dancing, unaware of what a crooked fool you are and have always been—and not caring. Or at least, this was how I felt. The angst either related to your ex or that job you deserved but realistically never had a chance in Hell of getting—all is released and cleansed. Aren’t we all looking for catharsis via a neo-savior? Here here.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/firewater-031105/