Eighteen months ago I wrote a review for Fiancé, a Denver-based group whose first EP couldn’t decide whether it was aimed at emo kids or the considerably more mature Ben Folds Five market. Now using the name of Flashbulb Fires, ‘Glory’ is undoubtedly more polished but still sees the band positioned at a crossroads.
The album’s beginning is undeniably impressive. ‘Pyramid Scheme’ shows that they have come far with ringing guitar and ambient production to the fore. ‘Revenge Song’ is the first of several tracks to suggest they have been studying the grand arrangements of Arcade Fire and ‘Sleep Money Dawn’ expands this feeling even more clearly; from the moment its opening line “When I was young, I was a bullet in a gun” is heard, the attention of the listener is grabbed as choral melodies and elegant piano patterns usher in its reflective charms, before ending with a brass finale.
Then bizarrely, from out of nowhere, ‘Brunette’ seems to return to the keening pop of their past band. It’s not a bad song but it’s surely a step backwards to them being embraced by the adult alternative rock followers. It seems to be a small aberration though, because on ‘Heavy Hands’ they successfully straddle youth and individualism with storming piano-led rock. Elsewhere, ‘Et Lux Perpetua’ and ‘Ambulance’ tackle country rock although the latter collapses in to a disappointingly ramshackle ending.
There’s a danger that Flashbulb Fires have taken on production values that may be too big for their actual songs. Yet however flawed ‘Glory’ may be, it is a big step forward for the group. A little more individualism and focus on their next album and they could achieve the major success they are so obviously searching for.
Arcade Fire, Fiancé, The Helio Sequence