Amusement Parks on Fire: Amusement Parks on Fire

Stefan Braidwood

Having heard this album, you might be tempted to give the guy responsible a million dollars. 'Nuff said.

Amusement Parks on Fire

Amusement Parks on Fire

Label: Invada
US Release Date: 2005-05-31
UK Release Date: 2005-07-05
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In one of the amusing but rather unpleasant vignettes he likes to post up now and again on Myspace and other fansite locations, Warren Ellis recently nailed the raison d'etre of rock music as the possibility of "being an immense human being". I think there can be little doubt that herein lies the heart of its fascination, especially during those teenage years when ones perception of ones limitations is as fickle as ones aspirations are as yet gloriously undimmed. The surging aural current of the guitar transcends physical identity and fears, uniting a roomful of adolescents afraid of their own bodies as it takes them out of themselves and into something greater for an all too brief glimpse of the rapture. Where you go when this happens to you is mostly irrelevent (anywhere, as long as it's far away, to paraphrase Chino on "Be Quiet & Drive"), but perhaps the inevitability of the feeling's passing is at the root of rock's aura of anguished violence; I was sound immortal, and now I'm trapped in this insufficient hutch once more. It isn't driving catharsis, for the phoenix has already ascended when the rock star flails pitifully at the floor with his broken carcass of an instrument... Rock's poignancy lies in the fact that it remains eternally greater than the sum of its parts; it is the face of God, the proof of inner meaning, the overcoming of all obstacles, an immensity of power and light beyond conscious articulation. It is the everything that we cannot contain and are therefore doomed to lose.

If that all sounds rather bombastically depressing, well, that's rock 'n' roll for you, and the Bard himself would point out that it's better to have loved then lost... Michael Feerick, the 20-year-old from Nottingham who wrote and performed the entirety of this debut album on his lonesome, certainly intends to get some good hard loving in while the going is good. To accomplish this thrilling in the name of, he plays drums, piano, bass, violin and lead guitar, and also sings with a great deal of longing integrity if not much technical ability or imagination; the result are nine tracks that dwell on some blistering atmospheric plane which encompasses the distorting gridiron guitar layers of My Bloody Valentine as well as the post-rock staples of faltering strings and piano floating in near-silence.

After the slowly building opener "23 Jewels", drums and guitars explode forwards in circular motif momentum on "Venus in Cancer" and later album highlight "Venosa", but if these are the most accessible and moreish tracks here, Feerick is not afraid of letting things become more unpredictable; in very GY!BE-esque, "Eighty Eight" effaces itself behind some hushed radio dialogue before suddenly dropping back in again, and on the triumphant eight minutes of "Wiper" and closer "Local Boy Made God", he displays a well-honed ability to keep tracks driving onwards and upwards through ever-denser clouds of resonance without the need for anything as mundane as constant drumming or volume.

Signed to tiny indie label Invada after owner and Portishead producer Geoff Barrow was forced into signing Feerick by the former's wife (go, that lady), there are moments here where Feerick's ambition runs head on into budgeting restraints and pulls away with scrapes, although considering what mind-melting sums Kevin Shields and Billy "86 guitar tracks is just not quite enough" Corgan sunk into their pained creative urges the results are still hugely impressive; it is a measure of his talent that you can hear what he's aiming for, feeling his high even when things don't quite transcend musically. One might argue that proceedings gain another layer of poignancy from this... Neither his singing nor his voice are amazing, as mentioned earlier (this is very much the case live, to), but they more than suffice at this stage, and if he still sounds his churlish age on occasion, "Venosa" reveals a way with a simply anthemic thought and lyric that could see him go a long way.

It is very difficult to listen to this album and not be hugely excited by both the music and Feerick's potential, should some bigwig in a silicone tower of power somewhere throw down a few bundles of cash in his direction. I am left hugely optimistic by this record, and most of all by "Asphalt"; building from a frail violin and piano duet you might expect from Sigur Ros, it pours forwards through sprays of percussion into an almost unbearable climax, and I cannot help but see Feerick at the prow of some catemaran of the mind, lying spreadeagled with his fingers outstretched and a vision of delight upon his face as an ocean of light shoots past merely inches away. He has everything to live for.


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Photo courtesy of Matador Records

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still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

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In an era of reboots and revivals, we've invented a new form of entertainment: speculation. It sometimes seems as if we enjoy begging for television shows to return more than watching them when they're on the air. And why wouldn't we? We can't be disappointed by our own imaginations. Only the realities of art and commerce get in the way.

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