Firewater: The Man on the Burning Tightrope (Jetset)

It reminds us that there are many ways to view life; often it’s through a good bottle of bourbon and a little dance.

It’s a beautiful life when you love what you do. This is the Firewater gospel.

Firewater is a noteworthy band that started out as an indie supergroup featuring members from Cop Shoot Cop, the Jesus Lizard, and Soul Coughing. Firewater isn’t a supergroup anymore. Their lineup has changed several times, but it currently features Tod A., Tamir Muskat, Oren Kaplan, and Paul Wallfisch. For the first time in a few years, Firewater is just a band—and they have never sounded better.

Firewater creates dazzling and alluring music from the ugliness of everyday life. Their song subjects range from boredom to missed chances and even suicide. Firewater gives these subjects a human touch, a soul. Their music is very honest and very real. This is very apparent on their fourth release, The Man on the Burning Tightrope.

The album starts off with “Fanfare,” a bright instrumental piece that is reminiscent of that glimmer of hope at the beginning of the day. And much like that sliver of hope, the song is fleeting. “Fanfare” blends perfectly into the next tune, “Anything at All.” This is something of a shattered love song. The chorus of the song is, “I would give you anything, if I had anything at all,” although it also reminds you of the dark side of love, with lines such as “Suckers are willing to take anything at all.”

Another great melody on this album is “Dark Days Indeed.” This song plays like a drunken gypsy caravan lost in the wilds of Eastern Europe. Despite its title, lyrics like “I made the devil dance for me and spat into his eye!” show us that this song is somewhat joyful and definitely rebellious. It reminds us that there are many ways to view life; often it’s through a good bottle of bourbon and a little dance.

The title track casts Tod A. as the ringmaster. It’s a moody piece lavish with carnival sounds. This is seemingly about your appearance to others. At the point when you are truly damaged, the ringmaster reminds you that you could have been somebody. That hurts most of all.

“The Truth Hurts” is strange; it’s basically an answering machine message backed by cheesy, ’60s pop sounds (although you may want to listen carefully to Nicole Blackman’s fiery message). “Secret” seems to be a continuation of “The Truth Hurts.” The band showcases a new, twangy, Tex-Mex sound for this song. Awash in sleazy trumpets and drenched in cheap booze, “The Vegas Strip” is a drunk with a showgirl hanging off each arm.
And “Ponzi’s Revenge” reveals the return of the illustrious Ponzi. Guess what? He’s stolen all of your money and is living it up in the Caribbean. Like Ponzi, you should dance your troubles away to this song.

Firewater has consistently proven that they are a great and diverse band. Throughout their previous albums, they have explored such assorted sounds as Indian wedding music, Middle Eastern folk rock, and good ol’ rock ’n’ roll. However, on The Man on the Burning Tightrope, they finally find a good balance among their distinct sounds. It’s very obvious on this album that Firewater love what they do and, in the process, have shown the rest of us that it’s a beautiful life.

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