REVIEW: Fireworks – ‘Oh, Common Life’

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Artist: Fireworks
Album: Oh, Common Life
Label: Triple Crown

There have been few musical evolutions more exciting to witness in recent years than that of Michigan pop rock outfit Fireworks. Over the course of two radically different full length albums and numerous EPs the band, which originally began as a pop punk project, has transformed from boys to men, and in doing so grew to have new outlooks on existence. The angst that drove their early material slowly began to take a backseat to a mix of hindsight and personal reflection on their Sophomore album that carved a niche all its own in the modern alternative landscape. Now, with album three ready to go, the men of Fireworks have settled into a sound completely their own that allows them to further their unique position in music while delivering one of the best albums of the last five years.

Kicking off with “Glowing Crosses,” Fireworks waste no time informing fans that Oh, Common Life will be building off the sonic foundation created on Gospel. It’s not quite punk and it’s not quite pop, but it’s definitely more than a simple combination of the two. There are elements of funk and soul in the mix, as well as just enough shoegaze to make the most melancholy moments a bit heavier on the heart than usual. It’s not a complete step forward from the sound of the previous album, but rather a more extensive exploration of what that sound can become. The answer, without giving too much away, is good-for-the-soul musical perfection.

As any fan of Fireworks will no doubt tell you, the lyrics delivered by frontman Dave Mackinder are as important as any note or chord played on the album. Where many bands look to make hooks and memorable one-liners amidst otherwise disposable material, Mackinder uses each verse, hook, and bridge to further divulge the inner workings of his mind and the thoughts contained within them. He retraces the better part of the last three years of his life, and in the process refuses to shy away from even the most painful moment of growing up. From relationships and the way friendships change in time, to the loss of his father and how that can send anyone into a tailspin, Oh, Common Life finds Mackinder offering his most infectious and emotionally gripping lines to date. You want to sing along as much as you want to sit down and reflect on your own experiences and the way they have not only shaped you, but the way you view the world around you.

If All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion was Fireworks’ way of introducing their younger, angrier selves to the world, then Gospel was their way of proving that they were capable of being more than another pop punk band with attitude and the occasional song about friendship. Oh, Common Life is the culmination of both these efforts, with the evolved world perspective of Gospel being thrust once again into the spotlight with a jolt of youthful anarchy hidden at its core. Where tracks like “The Back Window’s Down” and “One More Creature Dizzy In Love” tell of a worldview built from years of experience and the sometimes difficult realization that hindsight is always 20/20, other tracks like “Bed Sores” and “Woods” bounce with a sound that brings to mind your favorite summertime memory. It’s the best of both worlds musically, and to be honest it is the best album Fireworks have created to date.

Three albums into a career that deserves far more praise and attention than it has ever received, Michigan’s Fireworks have proven they are only getting better with age. Oh, Common Life is the first perfect album of 2014. Don’t sleep on it.

Score: 10/10

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Jess

    This album definitely raised my expectations for the band. Can’t wait to see them 4/18