Ezra Kire is known from his early days in the New York crack rocksteady scene, writing songs and providing a voice that helped make the genre become a veritable revisioning of punk. In bands like Leftover Crack and Morning Glory he combined crust, black metal, and ska with pop hooks, and in that he did something admirable– he helped create a new sort of punk rock that was both tough and catchy– something a new generation of misfits could worship and look to for guidance. As heavy as a sledgehammer, and about as subtle.
And then, in a fit of further revisioning, Kire started to separate himself from the scene he helped create and released new music with his old crack rocksteady band Morning Glory. But, the new M-Glory wasn’t the same as the old, it was defiantly Kire in every way. He found himself playing with the boundaries of punk, introducing piano and strings that backed loud and heavy anthems.
Now, there’s a new release, and again, a revision. Or maybe, just an update. Kire hasn’t stopped making music, and on Speakers in the Sky, it seems like maybe he can’t stop. He bleeds music and with a new record comes a new hemorrhage. Kire is an artist, the kind of human machine that can’t and won’t stop sublimating his experience. He was made with his purpose, and as a final act of removing outer-processes, he has left the Morning Glory moniker behind him, along with his last name. This new album, Speakers in the Sky, is credited to only Ezra.
And that’s fitting, because with the stripped down name comes stripped down music. This is largely a piano album, while the later tracks do bring in some of the Morning Glory bombast, it doesn’t aim to be punk by any means. “Everything is Wardsback” provides the baseline for what to expect from Speakers in the Sky— Billy Joel piano ballads sung with the desperate edge of a singer who wasn’t built to sing, but was born to nonetheless. “Civilian Song” continues in this direction and then “Love the World We Have” brings in a guitar crescendo that reminds us that the old Ezra is a long way from dead.
“Soldier On” is one of the best songs on the album, with a sticky refrain and harmonies that elevate it into something hopeful and ethereal. It is then effortlessly transformed as it continues into the title track. Here, we hear Ezra’s punk snarl, backed by messy electric guitars and sirens. It acts as a separate entity as well as a continuation of “Soldier On,” allowing the ballad to burn and become an anthem.
The album ends with the contemplative “Corpse’s Lullaby,” whose chorus of “Tell me!” sung by a choir of Ezras is one of the album’s biggest hooks. It’s lyrics call back to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” but as one would expect, it’s tougher and darker than what even the bleakest Beatle could conjure.
Speakers in the Sky is interesting because of Ezra, and an argument could be made that it’s engagement level will depend on what you think of the man himself. For a devotee who has followed his work, this new collection of ballads may be mesmerizing, but for the casual punk, they could come off as equally limp. Either way, there is no denying the talent, nor the perseverance of the artist, and when it comes to punk, that’s over half the battle.