I don’t think there’s been a pop-punk album in my library that’s been played more than Gospel since its release back in 2011. That record seemed to capture everything I love about the genre and display it brilliantly, making for a catchy and relatable good-time all round. Fireworks’ third album Oh, Common Life is slightly different, matching the black cover art. It’s a darker record, without dropping what makes the band so accessible and instantly likeable.
Since their last release Fireworks have taken a brief hiatus and during this period of normality vocalist and lyricist David Mackinder continued to write, and as a result the record draws from everyday life, hence its title. During that time his father passed away, and this loss punctuates a lot of the record, giving it a bleaker feel lyrically whilst keeping with the exuberant instrumentals and huge choruses that breathed life into past works. This ultimately means that Oh, Common Life has a slightly unsettling depth and honesty to it that sets it apart, for the better. It’s a record from a band with their feet planted firmly on the ground, in that there’s no clichés or gimmicks, and it’s just an intimate and personal take on growing up and the pains that often accompany doing so. It’s relatable in a different way to a lot of the genres other releases, and is also enjoyable on a bunch of differing levels, and if one thing’s clear it’s that Fireworks have grown up immensely during their time away. It shows in every second of their third full-length, which pulsates with a youthful energy but tells a humbling tale of adult maturity. Take fifth track Woods, coasting along on chunky bass guitars and quirky drumming before Mackinder sings ‘When I was young death chewed me up / and I was swallowed by a world that I don’t feel a part of’ and ‘It’s been 15 years, you’re the reason I’m not close to anyone’. Despite the negativity it’s still an incredibly catchy song, and this is what Fireworks do so well throughout Oh, Common Life. Guitarists Brett Jones and Chris Mojan sit back at times and at others burst forwards for great pop-punk riffs or even a guitar solo of sorts on the epic Fall Out Boy-esque The Only Thing That Haunts This House Is Me, whilst bassist Kyle O’Neil provides fuzzy and churning undertones as Tymm Rengers gives one of the genres best performances of recent memory on drums, most notably on emphatic closer The Hotbed Of Life. Positive instrumentals often accompany reflective and searching lyrics, and the result of the two combining is uplifting yet humbling songs that express several conflicting moods. Everything comes together perfectly on stand-out slower track Run, Brother, Run which is one of the most stylish and polished tracks the band have ever released, being a mature and startling piece of music, with Mackinder lamenting ‘I’m getting used to my skin but it doesn’t fit right / I shared my name with a stranger all of my life’ as melodic guitars soar and drums cascade. Fireworks have upped their game, and it shines through on tracks like this one and opener Glowing Crosses, which is brooding and thick, packing meaty guitar riffs and a huge anthemic chorus with a venom that Fireworks haven’t shown since the more punk-infused All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion. Following track Bed Sores is just as good, yet sounds more familiar in that it could have easily been on Gospel, showcasing a bit more sunshine amidst jaunty instrumentals.
Lyrically the record is excellent, especially on The Back Window’s Down which opens with the line ‘Found some words of wisdom written on a bathroom stall / It said you all walk the same straight line, though I just happen to crawl’. Expect memorable lines and hooks aplenty that will stay in your head for days and almost always elicit a reaction, because Fireworks know how to write a song, and Oh, Common Life is a record brimming with life despite its often melancholy nature. Play God Only Knows At My Funeral is surprisingly dynamic for a song of that name which drops the line ‘I’m half the man my father knows I should be’, whilst fourth track Flies On Tape is a vibrant example of the band at their insatiable best, packing a punch via a churning chorus and sweeping vocals.
As a whole Oh, Common Life is a brilliant record, but does however contain a few weaker tracks in One More Creature Dizzy With Love and The Sound Of Young America, which are far less memorable, with the former taking a heavier approach and losing some of the contagious appeal, whilst the latter doesn’t offer too much in the way of either progression or regression. For me anyway these were the only blemishes on an otherwise glowing portrait, and it’s a small criticism considering the quality that’s consistently show on the bands third record.
Fireworks have done it again, and with Oh, Common Life have released the genres first truly incredible record of 2014, which will likely remain so for some time. It’s a big step up from Gospel which doesn’t necessarily change the formula too much, but instead tweaks it for a much more polished and professional approach which keeps the energy and ups the emotion, capturing a number of moods and conveying each with that trademark Fireworks spark.
Rating – 9/10
Listen to: Bed Sore / Flies On Tape / Run, Brother, Run
Stream here (if available): http://www.redbull.com/us/en/music/stories/1331640166553/fireworks-oh-common-life-album-premiere