Adam Arcuragi: Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It

Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It isn’t a bad album, it’s just not the best Arcuragi has in him.

Adam Arcuragi

Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It

Label: Thirty Tigers
US Release Date: 2012-01-31
UK Release Date: Import

Recorded in a brief but powerful 12-day spurt in Lexington, Kentucky, the third full-length release from Atlanta-born and Philly-dwelling troubadour Adam Arcuragi, Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It, has a lot going for it: Arcuragi's soulful voice and an ability to blend elements of church harmonies with primal drumming and hoarse but still mightily barbaric yawps. There’s a sound that harkens back to the analog era and the best work of Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, along with the sense that he’s singing about something deep, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Trouble is, you can’t quite put your finger on it. Arcuragi often howls the lyrics forth in a nearly incomprehensible fashion, smothering the meaning in those unbridled shouts and woeful woops, so that the better side of his voice, the soulful touches, as displayed on the early moments of “So You Think This Was Easy”, say, or “Last Long Rain” get forgotten in the sweltering storm of raw emotion. After some time, you can’t really connect with the material, and thus it flies by like a wash of intriguing but ultimately unimportant noise. By the time things settle down and the music and performances become a little more focused somewhere around the album’s midway point, it’s too late.

Arcuragi's too good an artist to dismiss outright –– there are strong and memorable pieces that emerge, such as “The Birds Will Follow”, during which he pauses to sing with clarity and conviction on a track that calls to mind the best work of his contemporaries in Fleet Foxes. The fine and gentle guitar figures of “Port Song” buoy a weary and weather-beaten vocal performance during which Arcuragi sounds like a man who may or may not expire from sadness before the end of each line –– it’s deeply moving and a textbook example of how to connect with the material and the audience, the very thing that’s absent in other places on the album.

Yet a track such as “The Well”, which wants to be a Band-cum-Creedence Clearwater Revival hymn with a dark vibe that might make Screamin’ Jay Hawkins proud, seems just out of the emotional reach of the performers –– they can conceive of the right moves, get the right mood, but they just haven’t lived the material yet (or lived long enough with it to make it really work). But the following piece, “I Called”, features another ace vocal performance and a vibe that is never less than on target.

Therein lies the legacy of this album, perhaps: an artist who’s capable of conceiving great work but not quite in a place where he can fully execute it with all his might. In this way, he’s not unique -- record store shelves and digital collections are filled with plenty of this lot. What makes Arcuragi different from the others is that you want him to better than he is; you want him to succeed because, so far, he has seemed so damned good at what he does.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.