Review Summary: The house is getting angry as the days get hotter and the war gets closer
It would be easy for me to sit here and open this review by telling you about how Spires aren’t all that fresh; that every moment of their debut LP Flowers and Fireworks
is tainted with the type of familiarity that post rock reviewers (yours truly included) love to bitch about and elitists (again, yours truly included) love to cite as a reason to write off an up and coming band. I wouldn’t be wrong per se. In fact, by most measures, I’d probably be right. For anyone familiar with the type of grandiose hardcore championed by acts such Sed Non Satiata and Daitro over the last few years, I need simply state that this is a skramz record and that should paint a fairly clear picture of Spires’ sound. Similar to the mesmerizing intensity of sputnik favorites Mesa Verde, Spires work with a meandering and swirling timbre. While slow-brewed hardcore is the norm here, subdued post rockisms worm their way in, as repeated guitar melodies swirl in a hypnotic drone ever so quietly towards an inevitable climax of crash cymbals and power chords. Throw in some indecipherable yet passionate screams and you have Flowers and Fireworks
in a nutshell. As a music critic worth his weight in prickism, I should be knocking this record for its similarity and the eerie feeling of déja vu it instills in its listener, but in all honesty, I really can’t do that. I like this record too damn much.
Without doubt, Flowers and Fireworks
is the type of emo record that can appeal to fans of any of the genre’s infamous niches. Sure, at an expansive nine tracks with an average length of five minutes, diversity is a necessity, but Spires excel at both the hazy deliberate pace of post metal (hence John Hanson’s “Skramz Isis”) and intense, Gospel-esque technical chaos. Opener “Shores” starts the record off firmly in the former, and it isn’t until “Flames for the Strays” that Spires really let loose and start truly embracing the latter. The first three songs off the record offer climaxes and “heavy” parts here and there, but Flowers and Fireworks
initially refuses to fully align itself with more severe tendencies. This gives the record a somewhat methodical pace; by keeping the tempo down early on (without sacrificing intensity; these guys know what they’re doing), Spires sound absolutely foreboding. They show glimpses of what’s to come, particularly in the shi
t hot opening to standout “Whoring the Fields,” but even then, it isn’t long before Spires pull back to a quieter tenor. In these more melodic sections, Spires excel, as genuinely interesting interludes punctuated by some well-produced distorted bass give the music a dynamic center.
Still, as proven by “Flames for the Strays” and the subsequent, near-anthemic “Scraped from the Bones,” Spires are at their best when they’re at they embrace their natural affinity to straight up emotional fury. “Scraped from the Bones” ups the ante for Flowers and Fireworks
. It has all the makings of a heavy track, opening with ferocity fresh off the stellar “Flames for the Strays,” but soon Spires twist the song into a speedy post rock jam, hitting an emotional high in the climactic middle section. This all only gets better as soon everything devolves into a kind of a drum/scream chant which will inevitably draw comparisons to Circle Takes the Square’s “In the Nervous Light of Sunday.” The drums connect to the album’s second half starter, “Mermaid Harpoon/Warmest Regards,” and Flowers and Fireworks
doesn’t let up from here on out. Both “Mermaid Harpoon” and “The Bitters” are overall solid offerings, standing solidly against the album's well executed first half in terms of heaviness and vibe, but it is the penultimate “Man or Mother” that delivers in the fullest. With the album’s truest breakdown, “Man or Mother” provides what Flowers and Fireworks
needed at least one or two more times in the preceding seven tracks: a defining moment. For a band whose only crime is familiarity, Spires could have afforded to throw in more flash, and "Man or Mother" delivers said flash beyond what could have been expected.
The only comparable moment to precede “Man or Mother's’” distinctive quality is the lo-fi second half of “Mermaid Harpoon/Warmest Regards.” Perceptibly the “Warmest Regards” referred to in the title, this section proves the record’s most sincere changeup that actually works. It’s the records purest breath of fresh air amidst what is mostly doom and gloom with breakdowns, and is a harbinger for what’s to come on the unavoidably epic “Eves.” No spoilers on this killer finale, but for those who like their skramz with chants, Spires know how to deliver. If Spires were to offer a summary of what they aspire to be, then “Eves” is perfect. It’s exciting, methodical, and mesmerizing all at once, and leaves a very distinctive impression. Unfortunately, not all of Flowers and Fireworks
is up to that task, as a general homogeneity hangs over the record, but if that is the record’s most egregious flaw, then Flowers and Fireworks
must be heralded as a success, for it takes a band in a stagnant genre offering something mostly unoriginal, and yet on almost every level, it works. Here’s to hoping Spires stick around, because if there’s one thing emo doesn’t need, it’s another promising act calling it quits after their first record.