It’s been a little more than four years since There Will Be Fireworks critically well received debut; four years punctuated only by the release of the Because, Because EP at the end of 2011. Sophomore effort The Dark, Dark Bright by the Glasgow based 5-piece opens with a sonorous voice reciting lines from Two Singing Girls, a poem by Lewis born poet Iain Crichton Smith. It’s a curiously low key but nonetheless apt opening to an album full to bursting with emotive indie rock songs and often poetic lyrics that, during my first listen, sent more than a few shivers up my spine and caused me to get quite emotional during some of the more resoundingly heartfelt moments. Always a good sign when an album plants a lump in your throat at first blush.
Opening song And Our Hearts Did Beat is a subtle but persuasive opener. Strummed guitars and soaring vocals courtesy of front man Nicholas McManus usher the listener into a gentle post rock outro which seamlessly flows into second track River which is where the band’s moniker starts to makes sense. River begins subdued, building in intensity before, a little past the minute mark it bursts its banks and explodes with energy. Sky scraping guitars and synths are underpinned by hammering drums and above the fury McManus sings like the words are being ripped raw from his throat along with pieces of his heart. It’s quite brilliant but still not a real indication of the lofty heights the album will soar to before it’s done.
River is followed by Roots which turns the dial down some and reaches deep into the soul of the listener to plant a seed that blossoms into a fathomless melancholy as weeping strings tug gently at the heartstrings. Youngblood is up next, opening with a folksy jangle before delivering the album’s first anthem. It’s an upbeat gallop of a song that ignites in the home stretch to deliver an incendiary instrumental coda that arrives out of nowhere only to fall away as the album’s next song drifts in on a bed of hazy synths. Ash Wednesday is simply gorgeous. “Cold from December still lingers in March, all of the people that stay in these houses are falling apart,” sings McManus and the poignancy can’t fail to move even the most granite of heart. Live, this song will have the audience sobbing into their pints.
Next up is So Stay Close; emerging from the swirling sound-scape it slowly comes awake, roused from slumber by pounding drums and before too long it transforms into an intense post rock epic only for the noise to fade away leaving just acoustic guitar, pulsing bass and Nicholas McManus’ voice. Lay Me Down follows and is another touching, slow burn slice of mournfulness.
Track eight Here Is Where relates in stream of consciousness fashion a story full of memories and hurt and for my money it’s the beating heart of The Dark, Dark Bright. Like most of the songs here it seems to come from a very personal place and contains some of the most affecting lyrics on an album that’s full to bursting with words that make the listener feel. This is one of the songs I alluded to in my opening paragraph when I said this is an album that sent more than a few shivers up my spine. With every listen Here Is Where becomes something more; something greater than it already was and it was great to begin with.
Your House Was Aglow almost matches Here Is Where in its ability to tug insistently on the heart strings with McManus adopting a higher register than elsewhere. It’s lovely and leads perfectly into the most sonically uplifting song on the album. South Street is the sort of song that, upon hearing the recorded version, you just know it will rip the ceiling off any venue this band plays. It’s the sort of song that can simultaneously make you smile and bring tears to your eyes. A joyful sadness if you will.
The album ends with the gorgeous double whammy of Elder and Oak and The Good Days; the latter full of bittersweet yearning for a yesterday that is doomed to memory. It’s the perfect end to one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2013. Here is a band that demands to be mentioned in the same breath as Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad. A band who invests both their sound and lyrics with a passion that is consistent in its ability to move the listener. The Dark, Dark Bright can stand tall next to Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters or The Midnight Organ Fight instead of existing in their shadows. This, considering that I hold both those albums in the very greatest esteem, is the highest praise I can bestow. I just hope we don’t have to wait another four years for album number three.
- Steve Chandler
There Will Be Fireworks - The Dark, Dark Bright is out now on Comets & Cartwheels and is available online here and in all good record shops.