Review Summary: I'm getting used to my skin, but it doesn't fit right
Growing up is no simple walk in the park; we all have obstacles we must overcome as we attempt to ease our way into adulthood and it’s not always a pretty picture. In fact, it can be quite debilitating. For Dave Mackinder, the vocalist of Fireworks, growing up means touring almost constantly and more recently, dealing with the death of a loved one. The band’s newest effort Oh, Common Life
is centered around this event as Mackinder spills his guts about the loss of his father as well as his fading childhood memories. The result? Well, let’s just say it’s their most personal work to date.
For those who haven’t heard Fireworks before, they’re one of the hardest working lil’ pop-punk groups to ever emerge out of Detroit. It’s safe to say some time off has rejuvenated the band; they’ve never sounded quite this confident and the album’s a delight to the ears despite the sincere subject matter at hand. Following a similar direction as Gospel
, their third studio album slows things down a bit more, resulting in a less immediate, yet more focused album. Okay, some moments are rather upbeat, such as the opening track and lead single ‘Glowing Crosses’ which is easily the most aggressive song on the album. ‘Flies On Tape’ is also packed with energy and even has a little beach boys influence thrown into the chorus for good measure. However, the remaining tracks are almost all mid-tempo. This is often a risky move for an album like this, but if anything, the band are finally able to bare their fangs. That’s not to say they weren’t good before, but Oh, Common Life
is surely their most mature album to date. The punchy guitars and nasally pop-punk vocals are still present, but the emo and alternative rock flourishes bring the band into new territory. For example, ‘The Back Window’s Down’ sounds like a straightforward indie/alternative rock track as MacKinder shows off his improved pipes through the mid-tempo versus and simple, yet effective chorus. This might not sound like anything too exciting, but the band’s ability to stray from their usual formula and succeed is rather refreshing.
Let’s face it, Dave Mackinder will never be the most accessible vocalist around, but the improvements he’s made on this album are remarkable. Whether he’s showing us his gentle, quirky side on songs like the ludicrously catchy 'Bed Sores’ or utilizing that extra edge in his voice on the faster tracks, his vocals seem to surpass the band’s previous work in nearly every aspect. The guitar-work is also hands down the best of the band’s career, and a huge improvement over past efforts. The band’s decision to slow things down has resulted in more precise, intricate guitar playing, unlike the band’s usual speedy power chords. Every song is also enhanced by Tymm Renger’s always exceptional work behind the kit and the bass often dances around in the background. In other words, all the band members pull their weight and even exceed expectations on this album.
Like many successful pop-punk albums, the lyrics act as the icing on the cake during Oh, Common, Life.
All the improvements the band has made wouldn’t be nearly as effective if they weren’t accompanied by Mackinder’s fantastic work behind the pen. He often hints at seeking his father’s acceptance, despite the fact that he passed away in 2011. In ‘Play “God Only Knows” at My Funeral’ Mackinder shouts I’m half the man my father knows I should be
and in ‘The Hotbed of Life’ he yells I was a shy child holding onto my father’s legs.
He gets even more personal in ‘Run, Brother Run’ as he vents about losing his father when he was only 25 years old. On other songs, Dave gives us a glimpse of his own personal struggles and pains of getting older. One line that really stuck out to me is in 'One More Creature Dizzy With Love’ as Mackinder sings It started in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and led to the grey hairs that your fingers comb through.
These lyrics perfectly represent the intense pace in which life can pass by a person right before their own eyes. Luckily for us, these themes also strengthen the album tremendously and create an experience that’s as heartfelt as it is entertaining.
Oh, Common, Life
is, essentially, Gospel 2.0. If you didn’t like their last release, there’s a good chance this won’t be your cup of tea, but for those who did, this is a noteworthy expansion of that sound. Due to Fireworks' consistency this time around, it’s rather difficult to pinpoint the strongest tracks on album. Hell, the songs I wasn’t as fond of at first have proved to be just as enjoyable as my initial favorites. What’s so special about the album, however, is that there’s enough variety to indulge whatever mood you’re in. If you’re feeling like some fast-paced punk tracks, look no further than the album’s singles (‘Glowing Crosses, ‘Flies on Tape’). For those seeking a slow burner, there’s plenty to keep them preoccupied as well. Even after over ten listens, my favorite song seems to change on nearly every play through. It may not be genre defining, but if their newest effort is a sign of things to come, Fireworks are about to become one of the biggest bands in the genre. Oh Common, Life
is just too much damn fun to ignore, but it manages to make the listener think as well. Quite the feat for a few boys from Detroit, Michigan.