There Will Be Fireworks
The Dark, Dark Bright


5.0
classic

Review

by Jack Mancuso CONTRIBUTOR (69 Reviews)
July 26th, 2021 | 101 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: this used to be my city

There Will Be Fireworks were nothing less than a musical supernova. In the wake of their most powerful and gripping spectacle, they suddenly vanished, with The Dark, Dark Bright still being their most recent musical output 8 years after the fact. This unassuming five-piece group from Glasgow, Scotland come from humble beginnings and have stayed true to themselves throughout their artistic development, continuing to push their art to the forefront and expressing no interest in personal recognition. With the exception of live performances, very few photos exist of the band, and little is known about their personal lives. What’s plain to see, however, is the insane trajectory of their musical evolution over the course of just a few short years. Their 2009 self-titled debut was ambitious and stamped with the same yearning and passion that dominates The Dark, Dark Bright, but its tonal inconsistencies and overlong runtime prevented it from being recognized as a true masterstroke. Where things become truly interesting is 2011’s Because, Because EP, which showcased the group’s newfound ability to maintain the gorgeous strengths of their first record, as well as effortlessly combine them with new musical influences. With its heavenly sonic textures and gripping delivery, “Harmonium Song” in particular acts as an extended preview for what was to come in 2013. This 4-song release was painfully concise, and had TWBF’s small (and extremely dedicated) fanbase chomping at the bit for more. When the group once again returned to Old Mill Studios in Strathaven to record their follow-up, it’s safe to say expectations were high, but I don’t think anyone expected what The Dark, Dark Bright would become.

The album succeeds in just about every way imaginable, but the key to its gravitational pull is its use of juxtaposition. These are some of the bleakest lyrics that could be paired with a record that mixes bright indie folk with triumphant post-rock. Nicky McManus’s harrowing narratives recount his witnessing of the city he loves slowly dying around him, and his innocence along with it. This is why fan favorite “Here Is Where” knocks the wind out of me, in which McManus recounts every lovely experience he’s had in Glasgow that’s now forever tainted by his inner turmoil. The decidedly brighter sounding “Lay Me Down” isn’t any brighter lyrically, chronicling the dissolution of relationships and attachments, in the sense that everyone has stuck around, but no one is truly present anymore. Despite the heavier moments and lyrics on display here, I would still describe The Dark, Dark Bright as an album of hope amidst desperate circumstances. For proof, look no further than “Ash Wednesday”, an exultant crescendo of a track that sees McManus finally noticing some much needed beauty in his world; you can almost feel the sigh of relief in his voice. While we’re on that subject, another reason the lyricism is so effective is because of how incredible McManus’s vocal performance is, and because of the band’s ability to make even the more tranquil moments sound like the most important thing you’ve ever heard. The soft crooning and acoustic strums of “Roots”, “Lay Me Down”, and “Your House Was Aglow” are devastatingly intimate, with warm details like the gentle hum of a microphone or the creaking of a chair in the background adding layer upon layer to the atmosphere.

Then there’s the bigger moments, which are scattered all throughout the tracklist and are nothing short of awe-inspiring. McManus and lead guitarist Gibran Farrah conjure images of tidal waves with their titanic guitar textures and unforgettable melodies. Acoustic prelude “And Our Hearts Did Beat” is all well and good, but true opener “River” is the TWBF song for a reason. Unlike many of the more patient beasts on this record, “River” cuts right to the chase with a pounding kick drum and gallons of reverb before barreling into the most soaring hook you’ll ever hear. McManus’s vocals are pushing the pedal to the floor here, and it’s because he has to in order to be heard over the controlled chaos of the band. As I previously mentioned, many other tracks opt for the traditional post-rock path of steadily unfolding toward an unforgettable climax. My personal favorite example of this is penultimate track “Elder and Oak”, a touching piano ballad that suddenly morphs into the most hopeful moment on the record, and is a soothing instance of optimism amidst an emotionally taxing journey. None of these arresting builds or stunning conclusions would be possible without the astute and rock solid performances from the rhythm section. Bassist David Madden and drummer Adam Ketterer provide the firm foundation for this album to ascend into the stratosphere, and manage to remain malleable while playing through the changes of some the more amorphous sections with ease.

Then there’s “So Stay Close”. This song...oh my goodness. Words can’t even begin to describe it, but the one I feel most comfortable choosing is “spellbinding”. It twinkles like stars in the night sky, and it packs the punch of those stars falling to the earth. The frenetic drumming, gorgeous delayed guitar, and stack upon stack of layered vocals establish this piece as the comfortable standout in my eyes, a song so massive it can’t come to any conclusion other than a sudden complete deconstruction into the most beautiful acoustic section on the album. It’s 5 minutes and 15 seconds of musical perfection.

Unfortunately, this perfection is the last we’ve seen of There Will Be Fireworks. Eight years down the line, The Dark, Dark Bright remains their most recent release, despite rumors and social media posts in both 2016 and 2019 carrying the hashtag #albumthree. Will we ever receive more music? The answer remains to be seen, but following up an album of this caliber is a daunting task. Even if the mythical Album Three never arrives, I’ll always be thankful that The Dark, Dark Bright found its way into my life. It still manages to speak to me every time I listen to it, and remains just as emotionally powerful as the first time it washed over me. You could maybe convince me that another album from 2013 is more important, but you’ll never convince me that that album is better.



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user ratings (477)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Observer EMERITUS (5)
These songs that I've been singin' don't keep the world from spinning...

anat (4.5)
Fraught with young skepticism and the brininess of regret...

Nick Mongiardo (5)
Raw emotion at its finest....

BigHans (4.5)
Listen to River or die...



Comments:Add a Comment 
YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2021


15306 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i wrote this for r/indieheads' 2013 AOTY series, but Sputnik is my first love so you get to read it first!

Digging: cLOUDDEAD - cLOUDDEAD

Josh D.
July 26th 2021


16995 Comments


I wish I liked this as much as everyone else. "Elder and Oak" is stunning, but I don't like the rest quite so much.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2021


3269 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes!



Sweet review for an amazing album.

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2021


15306 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Josh that's in my top 3 so you still got good taste in my book

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My favorite album of all time

Nice review

Digging: Cloakroom - Dissolution Wave

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2021


15306 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

hell yes Slex it's in my top 10!

Lender
July 26th 2021


165 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Goat

Gyromania
July 26th 2021


33454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My issue with this album is nothing comes even remotely close to river and so stay close, besides maybe here is where

porcupinetheater
July 26th 2021


9092 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just gonna leave Elder and Oak out in the cold like that?



Plus so much of the beauty is the way the flow of the songs elevate what's around them.

South Street on it's own - real nice. But South Street after the protracted campfire lull of House is Aglow just about sets the house on fire

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

(((my fave track is secretly Roots y'all are all wrong)))

porcupinetheater
July 26th 2021


9092 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's par for the course these days

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ayyy

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
July 26th 2021


3269 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, at this point River and So Stay Close would be somewhere in the middle of my track ranking, too many brilliant songs on here

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Top 5



Roots

So Stay Close

Elder and Oak

River

Here is Where

AngryJohnny
July 26th 2021


1028 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's my top 5 too just not quite in that order

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Semi-great minds think almost alike

letsgofishing
July 26th 2021


1634 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Gosh, does anyone even like this album?

porcupinetheater
July 26th 2021


9092 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It has its moments I guess

Slex
July 26th 2021


12765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Imagine liking music lmaoooo wtf

theBoneyKing
July 26th 2021


21186 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Gosh, does anyone even like this album? [2]

Digging: 40 Watt Sun - Perfect Light



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