Review Summary: These songs that I've been singin' don't keep the world from spinning
“And Our Hearts Did Beat” is the fitting opener: Singer Nicky McManus croons over acoustic strums an anecdote of standing together, hearts beating fiercely while staring into the heavens. An ambient synth arrives in a wave, stilling the guitar to rest and then picks up the volume. You hear it - something big is about to happen.
And that something big is the rest of The Dark, Dark Bright
. “River” comes in over a steady bass drum via Adam Ketterer, ambiance clashing and dashing throughout the mix. McManus continues in tired tones before picking up in ferocity with the rest of the band; intense drumming ensues, swirling distortion picking up the singer from the very ground from which he stands. He belts, “We used to talk, you used to have me round. I used to sing for you, but now it's not the same.”
Now it's not the same – Bright
's overarching theme is a common one for indie rock thirty-somethings world round. Change is the only constant in every regret, loss, and longing for home, a nod to Boxer
, a nod to All Creature Will Make Merry
, a nod to The Moon & Antarctica
, and so on. A tired message with a tired delivery? Not so.
Glasgow's There Will Be Fireworks, then, turn up dynamics and emotive intent to the next level on Bright
to make that very constant of change that much more constant
and poignant. The post-rock leanings that graced and dictated much of their 2009 debut return fine tuned and are now mingled into and flow within the band's songs in equal proportion. You can hear the change, yes, but you can't walk away from this record without feeling it too.
It was on Meursalt's Make Merry
that I first heard post-rock-like song dynamics really mesh into and better a song's meaning. But here on Bright
, those Scotts are one-uped by a factor of five – and Make Merry
was a damn good record as it were too. “So Stay Close” is case in point. Like a tidal wave of ethereal longing, soft horns grace over echoing guitars as the drums send There Will Be Fireworks into an all-out jam. McManus' plea of “Just stay close, let it glow" rides shotgun to the song's climax, a euphoric ride all the way down the road.
There Will Be Fireworks work aptly in time of rest and furry, which aids in their post-rock leanings, true, but also in the very core of their more traditional songwriting. They're not wholly intent on making just songs, however, but more so in making a complete album: you can't really get all of a song without the aid of the others, cliche to say it may be.
That's probably why “Elder and Oak” really closes Bright
off so well - excluding “The Good Days”, which is more of a continuance of the first half of the opener. An anthemic selection of piano notes race behind McManus as he eclipses modern day-to-day living disillusionment with the remorse of the bad habits of a lover: “Are you waiting, waiting, waiting, for something to drink or smoke? Does it ever keep you up at night?” The song changes pace and explodes in pounding distortion as once again McManus and the subject in question are standing and watching the stars, just as we were at the beginning.
Were it not for There Will be Fireworks' fine-tuned mechanics and the presence of McManus, you'd be no more than just listening in to this loop. But as it stands on Bright
, you're there with them. That's what all artists should strive for - a vital connection to their audience. Relate, and what not, right? Bright
does that. Bright
is the album that all bands of this Scottish ilk have been trying to make - there, there, Frightened Rabbit. So in the four years it's taken them to come back with this colossal sophomore, join me in thanking God - well in this case, at least - for the constant of change.