In 2011, I took a two week real estate course to become a New York City real estate agent. That lifestyle didn’t really pan out for me, but it wasn’t a total loss because each day while I journeyed to and from the class, I got to listen to Fireworks’ sophomore album, Gospel and its combination of infectious sunny melodies and the melancholic nostalgia of the lyrics made it the perfect soundtrack for those hot summer days. Even after the summer ended I continued to listen to Gospel over and over, making it one of my favorite albums of 2011. I’m giving this background information because I think it’s important that you understand that I know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the band’s new album, Oh, Common Life is most definitely NOT Gospel: Part II.
Bear in mind that I don’t mean that in a bad way. Actually, the fact that Oh, Common Life isn’t Gospel: Part II is the album’s greatest strength. While there are hints of the band’s previous efforts here and there, Oh, Common Life is primarily a forward-facing journey. It’s not an entirely perfect journey, but it’s a mostly successful one.
First single and lead track “Glowing Crosses” is a fitting introduction to the new Fireworks: the music sets a dark and moody tone, in spite of the hooks and Dave Mackinder’s nasally vocals. It’s not unlike the sonic approach that Saves the Day took on 2006’s Sound the Alarm. The 1-2 punch of “Woods” and “Play God Only Knows at My Funeral” provides some of the best sequencing on the album, highlighting the band’s downer lyrics fused with a contagious melody. One of the best tracks on the album, “Run, Brother, Run”, takes a heavier, almost bluesy, musical approach. Imagine if Chris Conley collaborated with the members of The Gaslight Anthem and you’ve got a rough idea of what it sounds like.
Progress isn’t always perfect though, and Oh, Common Life has its share of missteps. “The Only Thing That Haunts This House Is Me” is a little too regressive into the band’s former pop punk territory, while “The Back Window’s Down” feels a little too forced into its position as the token ‘mellow tune that follows two upbeat jams’ track. Then there are the relatively inoffensive, but ultimately forgettable, tracks. “One More Creature Dizzy with Love” and “The Sound of Young America” aren’t ‘bad’ songs but they can’t really shake the filler-vibe that they give off.
Fireworks have put themselves in an interesting position. Although they’re associated with the modern young pop punk scene they’re constantly carving new niches for themselves, unlike many of their peers, and I find that really admirable. By tossing in blues riffs in favor of gang vocal breakdowns, and writing songs inspired by the 1967 Detroit Riot over singing about not being sad anymore, Fireworks have still made one of the more memorable albums in its genre. I might be unfairly biased and think it’s not as good as Gospel, but Oh, Common Life is still worth the time of day for anyone who’s like them in the past.
3.5 / 5 – Listen to it below!