Higher Lonely Power



by BlazinBlitzer USER (8 Reviews)
January 21st, 2023 | 2 replies

Release Date: 01/01/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fireworks tries out some new repeaters and assortments after nearly a decade, but the show leaves about the same impression as before.

After the double whammy of a hiatus and COVID complications, the boys from Livonia, Michigan are back for another album. Their track record includes 3 LP’s most of which consist of decent material where a lot of its prowess, for me, had been in its lyrics. Often the band as performers set a supportive pop-punk or alt-rock background for the lyrics and melodic catchiness to shine through as much as possible. “Detroit” off their first record and “Run, Brother, Run” of their third record are good examples of this if you’d like to see a career songwriting progression.

In terms of soundscaping, I’d pin this as their most experimental project yet. It’s difficult to call any song alike to each other as the band either blends or individually emanates influences of alternative rock, pop punk, post-hardcore, power pop, and/or others depending on the track’s calling. The ambition in that department is much appreciated and surprisingly not lost in focus, but it’s the execution of that ambition that I feel more mixed on than the effort. It kicks off with a bang on “God-Approved Insurance Plan” containing more intense instrumentation than we’re used to seeing the band sport at this point. The next song opts for a more powerful synth flair. There are a couple of songs here that attempt this direction with varying levels of success with this song being, to me, on the lower end of that success. It’s especially apparent in the song’s intro where the bombast of the combined synths make a wall of noise fronting an otherwise sentimental emo cut. “Megachurch” has a similar problem with its keyboard usage although the sappy post-hardcore production of the other instruments naturally brings it down in the mix. “Machines Kept You Alive” and “How Did It Use to Be So Easy?” are notable improvements on this; even if each song has its own issues, the more complex and emotionally rich keyboard melodies of those tracks show the band often retains the catchiness necessary to drive those messages home.

The other elements of composition, whether that be in guitars, drums, or vocals, are more middling on average. However, the band does a good job of selling their more energetic cuts and I prefer that side of the band to, say, the poppier moments on the record like “Goodnight Tomb” or “Woods II” where the lyrics are consistently solid enough throughout the record that these tracks instrumentally serve as paler backdrops to the animated vibe of stuff like “Funeral Plant” or “Veins in David’s Hand”. Going back to the topic of experimentation, there are a pair of tracks that sit smack-dab in the middle of the record that represent the band’s newfound outreach. The former has an excellent bouncy and dreamy scenery, even if I think it sorely mismatches the tone of its lyrical content. The latter begins as a ballad and suddenly shifts into a frantic drum n’ bass-like segment within the three-minute mark. For me, such a daring move can be a huge winning formula, but I think the second half just can’t escape its initial awkwardness despite several re-listens, captivation-wise leaving it at the same place as the ballad segment right before it, and I know that’s unfortunately not where the band wants to be with that track.

As mentioned, the band’s biggest strength has always been in its lyrical content. Their previous works had much of their material written on subjects of self-doubt and light nihilism and how those afflictions affected their relationships, a common, yet effective songwriting angle in emo circles. The way the lyrics would often associate themselves with bits and pieces of various imagery would elevate otherwise good writing into great writing. That hasn’t changed on this new album, but after nine years it’s understandable that the band has shifted directions to some degree with those associations. Interjected commentary of Christianity with the songwriter’s personal life is now fairly prominent, and most of its potential was reached on this new album. Some cuts did decently providing a critical angle to the matter (“God-Approved Insurance Plan”, “Megachurch”) while others built simple, more neutral parallels (“I Want to Start a Religion with You”, “Estate Sale”). The majority of tracks are a bit more bread-and-butter for the band, which ends up yielding some pretty nice results. “Funeral Plant” compares the writer’s coping mechanisms of self-loathing with those around them; rather than having that mechanism be “drugs or Jesus”, it’s just them imagining themselves at a time when this self-loathing didn’t exist, which is actually quite well thought-out. “Blood in the Milk” is a vivid description of the writer’s day-to-day grievances with thoughtful metaphors and fairly clever lines. While I think it’s musically a bit bland, the closer “How Did It Used to Be So Easy?” also has creative commentary on nostalgia and the guilt of feeling like potentially wasting so much of another person’s life. So the lyrics barely ever miss, but I think that “barely” rears its head on “Jerking Off the Sky” where an otherwise terrific song suffers a mismatch of punk-ish lyrics in a dreamy atmosphere, selling its frustrated commentary shorter than it could have been if they instrumentally went a “God-Approved Insurance Plan”-route.

The results of all of this are a bit more middling than I hoped, but it does seem that the band has a solid head on its shoulders trying to continue after such a long hiatus. At the very least they’ve got a strong core on the lyrical side of things and I’d like to see the creativity of the music surrounding those lyrics to really shine in future projects.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 22nd 2023


Blood in the Milk has been stuck in my head

January 22nd 2023


Album Rating: 5.0

Blood in the Milk was my early favorite but Megachurch won me over in time.

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