Higher Lonely Power
Funeral Plant Collective: #001
Fireworks hinted at a new direction with what many assumed would be their final bow, 2014’s Oh, Common Life, the effervescent pop-punk group incorporating quirkier power-pop and finding themselves consciously freed of the pressures of trying to creatively please anyone but themselves. A year later, they announced a hiatus “to give the other sides of life a try.” Members spent time exploring entirely new musical projects and taking a break from the grind of full-time band life.
A peculiar campaign in 2019 signaled something was brewing: A mysterious website with a survey on one’s very personal beliefs unlocked a bold new song. Behind the scenes, the band had indeed reconvened with six of their members: guitarist/vocalist Brett Jones; vocalist David Mackinder; keyboardist/vocalist/guitarist Adam Mercer; guitarist/vocalist Chris Mojan; bassist Kyle O'Neil; and drummer/vocalist Ted Roberts. They were getting ready to reveal Higher Lonely Power.
They had started writing and recording Higher Lonely Power, their planned fourth full-length, late that year. But, as one might guess, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the process to a halt; the studio the band recorded at temporarily closed, and all individual parties followed the calls to isolate for safety until life began to reach normalcy again some time later.
By spring 2022, Fireworks had wrapped up work on Higher Lonely Power, and now they’re finally ready to unveil it to a world that’s burning. Higher Lonely Power aims to sum up our hellish landscape with a big, ambitious return for the band: It’s a wild and sprawling affair that eschews all preconceived musical notions that Fireworks’ followers have come to be familiar with.
The album is a compelling, post-pop-punk shedding of the past – an ambitious evolution that accelerates Fireworks steadfastly into experimental alternative rock as played by melody-minded punks. Mojan says they approached writing Higher Lonely Power with an innate sense of freedom they hadn’t always embraced on prior records. “We just did what we wanted to do,” he says. “I don’t think when you’re given six weeks in a studio and you have to go on a tour right after, and you just got back off a tour before – I will just 100% say there is no way you can be authentically creative and true to yourself when it comes to that. You’re gonna be pressed for time. You’re not gonna be able to explore [different] sounds.” Without the pressures of outside interference like label executives or anyone else to be held accountable to, Fireworks “had all the creative freedom in the world to do whatever we wanted.”
“What was very important to us was to make a record that represents us as a collective and our own influences coming together,” O’Neil adds, “as opposed to what an audience wants to hear, or what Fireworks ‘sounds like.’ I feel like a lot of bands fall into the trap of, ‘Okay, we’re gonna make an album after so long – we need to make it sound like us.’ We just didn’t care.”
“God Approved Insurance Plan” makes an immediate statement as a snarling, punked-out noisy opener with an ominous, atmospheric bridge. Higher Lonely Power then continues along a path that may occasionally skew closer to 2000s blog buzz indie and alternative than the Drive-Thru Records-era pop-punk mode long-time fans might remember them for; but by and large, the band is forging their own path. “I Want to Start a Religion with You” imagines Fireworks’ version of widescreen heartland rock with a tasteful vocoder to boot. They follow it with “Goodnight Tomb”, littering the snappy track with unexpected flourishes and splashy drum effects. “Blood in the Milk” is an outright anthem with rich imagery, sure to be a crowd-pleaser with a yearning, earnest chorus.
All along, the band thematically hone in on mortality and how religion intertwines itself with that inevitability, all the while expressing exasperation at the power of theocracy. They offer these motifs, but keep the details a little more open to interpretation. “I would rather let people break that down and chew on it in a way they feel works for them,” Mojan says of any personal experiences that led to this lyrical subject matter, only revealing, “there’s a lot of grief and stuff happening there.”
But they’re hardly mourning themselves – don’t think of Fireworks as reborn. The band grew as musicians and songwriters behind the scenes, with Higher Lonely Power the powerful result of a band who never truly went away, but took time to refresh, and then regroup with a renewed and fresh focus. “When you first put out a record, you’re not thinking of how it’s going to be received,” Mojan says. “You’re just doing what naturally comes to you. It’s very common to fall off of that with further releases because you do [let] other things influence your process that shouldn’t influence it. It was really nice to be able to [say], ‘Hey, we all have other shit going on… This is a really cool outlet. Let’s treat it as such, and not let anyone else mess it up for us.’”
1. God Approved Insurance Plan
2. I Want to Start a Religion With You
3. Goodnight Tomb
5. Funeral Plant
6. Jerking Off the Sky
7. Machines Kept You Alive
8. Blood in the Milk
9. Veins in David’s Hand
10. Estate Sale
11. Woods II
12. How Did It Use to Be So Easy?
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