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Qualler Visits the Classics ('00s Album Edition): The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft

The '00s were, in general, not a great decade for the heroes of the mid-90s indie rock scene. After bands like The Promise Ring and The Dismemberment Plan broke up, each band had members starting new projects, to various critical and commercial success. (I love Maritime but clearly their influence was not as strong as Das TPR.) The (at the time remaining) members of Sunny Day Real Estate, after bowing with their highly underrated final record The Rising Tide, went somewhat separate directions, Dan Hoerner contributing to the Dashboard Confessional EP So Impossible (you know, the one where they sing about how he tried on his blue shirt, which she told him she liked it once) while Jeremy Enigk reunited with Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith to form The Fire Theft. Some might lump The Fire Theft in that batch of Bands In '00s That Formed From The Ashes Of A Better Band, but I disagree. (And now that Sunny Day Real Estate seems to be reuniting in a glorious way, as evidenced by their spectacular live show at First Avenue in Minneapolis last Wednesday and reviewed by Chris here, what better excuse to revisit this fantastic album?)

The Fire Theft's single album is a logical progression from the ashes of Sunny Day Real Estate (which, bee tee dubs, stopped sounding really "emo" in their second album way back in 1995) to a sound that could only be described as "spiritual, not religious." Opener "Uncle Mountain" immediately introduces the listener to the fact that four-chord guitar assaults will be taking a backseat to majestic-as-eff strings, bombastic guitar soloing, slightly over-the-top vocal stylings, and a hint of, alright, prog-rock (i.e. Genesis-style). Things don't get any less prog-gy with "Oceans Apart" and "Chain" while "Summertime" and "Houses" deliver the straight-forward poppiness that bring the record back down to earth. Centerpiece "Heaven" (hey! Also Brigitte and Qualler's first dance at their wedding!) takes a plaintive piano and gorgeous vocal stylings (did I mention that Enigk's voice is at its most bangable on this album?) to new heights. "Rubber Bands" brings a new breed of guitar-driven rock to the album, an almost entirely instrumental song that drives the tension to new heights. The pop stylings of "It's Over" deliver yet another great straight-forward rock song with those epic elements. The record closes on "Sinatra", the most bombastic and over-the-top song of the album, which closes on a 10-minute meditative ambient outro.

Naturally, without actually hearing the sounds of the record and/or not having any kind of feeling of personal connection to the material, one could say that my above description sounds like a pile of garbage. Of course, as all you music nerds know, the power of a record speaking to one's self can overpower all else.

First, my lovely wife / co-blogger Brigitte and I met for the first time at one of their concerts way back in 2003. It was at the concert that I first heard the majestic, new-age emo stylings of "Heaven", a song I immediately bookmarked in my mind as a favorite. It was there, too, that I met my future wife for the first time, an awe-inspiring mixture of "whoa, me likey this girl" and "um, how do I interact with her during this loud rock show?" made all the more fun and exciting on the bus-ride home when Blogulator's Chris, Brigitte and I discussed the merits of the Pollywog with a homeless man. Concert + meeting your future wife = automatic love for the music.

NOTE: The above songs are mistitled -- they are actually "Houses" and "It's Over", respectively.

But my love for this record doesn't end there. Singer-guitarist Jeremy Enigk, with his well-documented drama, never has been one to settle into a comfortable living. Through the two (and maybe now three?) runs he had with Sunny Day Real Estate, the option had to be there to quit pushing his music forward artistically and record some crowd-pleasing music. Not the case here -- it seems that his music has always been about finding meaning. Nowhere is this more prevalent than this record -- with memorable lyrics that are stuck in my head in the times I need them most ("And I can grab hold of love if you want it", etc). It was especially powerful one evening while I was in the midst of a frustrating time when I was failing on the CPA exam. I was running around the local chain of lakes at night when the uplifting opening beats and lyrics of "Sinatra" seeped into my headphones. I ended my run after having picked up the pace and feeling totally uplifted. The closing ambient tunes that I took in while while stretching on the grass and looking at the moonlit, silent lake brought a feeling of great peace.

Thus, The Fire Theft's self-titled record is one of my favorites of the '00s, and a new Qualler Classic.

NOTE: The above song is actually "Sinatra".

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  1. Blogger chris | 5:55 PM |  

    Nice twist! I thought for so long you were going to review a SDRE album for this feature then BAM!

    It really is a great album and I totally thought I liked it more than any SDRE, but since the concert, I think Diary or How It Feels takes the cake for me. Thx for the link!

  2. Blogger qualler | 6:06 PM |  

    Ah yes, this project will be focusing on the three albums that have made the biggest impact on me personally in the '00s in the next few months! This is #3! I'm with ya on digging Diary and How It Feels as much/more than this one, especially after the concert.

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