It's difficult describing exactly how hard Oh, Common Life hit me. It was subtle at first; only after the first few listens did it begin to resonate with me. I consistently look for albums that speak to me about the difficult emotional journeys that we all go through; that personal connection to an album that just makes you want to curl into a ball and leave the rest of the world behind. Oh, Common Life came to me at a time when I needed it desperately, and it was something that I didn't even know I was missing. Vocalist Dave Mackinder lost his father prior to the recording of the album, and it truly shows in the honest lyricism present on the album. When he isn't utilizing his unique vocals to recall heartbreakingly fond memories of his father, he's providing lyrical gems about fighting depression and fears of getting older. The lyrics often feel more like internal dialogue turned poetic than things anyone would feel comfortable spewing out through a microphone. And that is what makes this record so special; Mackinder is letting the listener into his world in a very personal way. The music switches from a jaunty pop punk sound to an energetic indie rock that swings from one end to the other to complement the vocals perfectly.
On a superficial level, it is easy to dismiss the album as a middle-of-the-road pop punk album. All of the ingredients are certainly there, complete with bouncy guitars and big choruses. Opener "Glowing Crosses" utilizes everything that is expected of the genre, complete with uptempo drumming and distorted guitars. As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious that Fireworks have been able to combine memorable songwriting with big choruses and an unmatched penchant for storytelling in the lyrics. The band even slows down the pace to match the solemn verses in songs like "One More Creature Dizzy With Love" and "The Back Window's Down", making the confessional lyrics even more affecting. The music is undeniably rooted in nostalgia, especially in the distorted guitar in "Run, Brother Run", one of the album's best offerings. Perhaps the strongest part of Oh, Common Life is that meaningful lyricism aside, it is still an incredibly enjoyable album on the surface. If you don't enjoy poring over a lyrics sheet, you can still be moved by the vocal performance on "The Hotbed of Life" or the angular guitars of "Bed Sores".
Whether it's the insanely catchy qualities of "Flies On Tape" or the morose lyrics of "Woods", there is something here for any listener willing to open themselves up as well. Oh, Common Life ripped open a personal wound of mine that I had simply put a band-aid on, and I am all the better for it. It forced me to look at a life-changing event that happened over five years ago and dissect how painful it still is to me. Fireworks provided me a soundtrack that will allow me to grieve whenever I need to. Oh, Common Life will be the album that I listen to when I don't want anyone to know how broken I still am over the loss of my father, and I couldn't be more thankful for that. Fireworks showed me that life may be common for most of us, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.
Man, this just might be your best review to date! I really enjoyed the personal aspect but you also have a really nice balance between the personal and informative stuff here. Excellent work Mark! I'm glad this album spoke to you so much.
Not sure if you know about this or not, but they had released the title track 'Oh, Common Life' as a bonus track. It's acoustic i believe and not the best production but i love the song and think it should have been included in the album.
Brilliant review in my opinion. I like how you were able to pinpoint the album's objective shortcomings while still justifying the perfect score you assigned to it. That definitely shows skill with persuasive wording and opinion justification.
I love when an album just hits you. That's what happened recently with Low Roar's 0 for me; sometimes an album just needs to be listened to a certain number of times or at the right time to be fully understood - and I think you really get this album.
If I had a minor qualm or nitpick, it would be these:
The music is inexplicably rooted in nostalgia, especially in the distorted guitar in "Run, Brother Run", one of the album's best offerings.
I don't think inexplicably is the right word. You're saying it's unexplainably rooted in nostalgia, even though that makes complete sense seeing as it is about his deceased father. I think you were going for irrefutably or undeniably, or some such similar word.
Fireworks provided me a soundtrack that will allow me to grieve whenever I need to; Oh, Common Life will be the album that I listen to when I don't want anyone to know how broken I still am over the loss of my father, and I couldn't be more thankful for that.
The semicolon just makes this part run on too long, and a period is the correct punctuation there anyway.
But like I said, minor details in an otherwise great review. I hate quoting stuff from the review because it makes the criticisms look larger than the praise, but alas. Pos'd.
Wow, thank you Sowing! I appreciate the feedback, and definitely agree on both points. I also appreciate your comment about getting the album, if only because it feels nice to have someone else validate your writing every now and then. It's good to feel like I know what I'm talking about haha. I've gotten tons of great positive feedback on this one, which is great because I took a chance by putting myself in it.
Thanks Skoopy! It's been awhile since I've seen you post!