Review Summary: Amusement Parks on Fire creates an impressive concoction of ballroom pop and mind bending shoegaze
With a band name like “Amusement Parks on Fire”, immediately one can envision fantastic imagery of an amusement park incinerated amidst the summer heat, the mastermind being a maniacal and calculative lunatic whose head of operations included his mind and some matches, maybe even some gasoline. But of course, this imagery wouldn’t come to fruition if it wasn’t for Michael Feerick, whose moniker of ‘lunatic’ is rather flattering, if not downright prestigious. Feerick, it seems, constructed the debut “Amusement Parks on Fire” all by his lonesome; a master arsonist at his height, working diligently to make the most of his vision, and to apply it onto a canvas of his own making. With his self-titled debut, Feerick creates an impressive concoction of ballroom pop and mind bending shoegaze; an endeavor whose exploits and execution has more to offer.
From the first few seconds, in which “23 Jewels” slowly trudges out of your speakers, an almost ambulatory feeling emanates from the melancholic passages of violin; perhaps a moment of silence for those enveloped in the fire. But this approach needn’t fool you as “Venus in Cancer” jumps out of your speaker with urgency, the waves of distortion guiding you, accompanied with a sweet, almost sugary melody delivered by Feerick. This approach is permeated evenly throughout the whole of the album’s framework, succeeding or failing based solely on the listener’s interest in such things. This is by no means an original take on shoegaze. In their heyday, Ride sang with a lustful grace, singing pop songs over a wave of shadowy feedback, an approach that Feerick successfully relinquishes. However, where Ride possessed the ability delicately balance the two distant elements; Amusement Parks on Fire has the tendency to make it awkward. Perhaps Feerick’s operatic delivery - clearly exposing his British tongue - skews things a tad. In this, the downfall of “Amusement Parks on Fire” (no pun intended) lies. Feerick’s vocal delivery seems ambivalent towards the main selling point of the music: the noise. The saccharine melodies are constantly at odds with the chaotic nature of the music – the results ending up being hit and miss. On the powerful and intensifying “Eighty Eight”, this formula comes to fruition in the form of propelling guitars and an uplifting melody that fits the music.
“Wiper” is an example where the distortion is used delicately to create an atmosphere of uncertainty, and just when this uncertainty lifts, finally, Feerick easily delivers one of the album’s greatest hooks; leaving the proceedings with a sense of triumph. However, the use of crescendos seems quite predictable. Where Amusement Parks on Fire distinguishes itself from the looming shadow of shoegaze juggernaut “Loveless” is it’s willingness to embrace the melancholic and reflective passages of Feerick’s song-writing. “Asphalt (Interlude” is a sad yet optimistic piano driven piece that firmly stamps Feerick’s love for the soft and introspective. The dual direction of “The Ramones Book” is a fresh take, beginning as a maudlin piano driven ballad that instantaneously coalesces into the angelic and beautiful “Local Boy Makes God”. The definitive Amusement Parks on Fire song, it epitomizes Feerick’s approach to his song-writing and shows us the niche in which he wishes to keep his song-writing. With soothing and washing waves of feedback Feerick’s harmonizing gently creates a cloud overbearing on top of the music; creating images of innocent boats moving back and forth right after a cold autumn rain. A distorted ambiance.
This leads to the contradictions that exist in Amusement Parks on Fire. These songs aren’t meant to bend the ear drums of listeners, instead offering ballroom-recital pop slapped onto a setting of calamity and brooding chaos. Feerick’s simple melodies are meant to be used subtly not without a defense of distortion. Amusement Parks on Fire’s heart lies in the beauty and the dreamy melodies of “Local Boy Makes God”, with the raucous passages not achieving the sharp gleam attempted at. So maybe Michael Feerick is a character of deep introspection, re-thinking of the days of happiness. Maybe he’s not an arsonist after all.