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| Highest Rated 2006
Amusement Parks on Fire: Amusement Parks on Fire
Filter U.S., 2005
Michael Feerick is a young Englishman who, if we can be assume anything
by his debut album, draws inspiration from watching breakers crash on the
beach and spends his free time listening to My Bloody Valentine. The
talented twenty-year old plays every instrument on Amusement Parks On
Fire, a feat that brings to mind the Smashing Pumpkins. It's not an
unwarranted comparison; Feerick mines the early 1990s for inspiration, and
presents the same emotional honesty that made Billy Corgan famous, albeit
with less finesse.
The album revisits the old battle of determining if a release is
"consistent" or "samey" -- the only thing all parties will agree on is
Feerick's obsession with oceanic washes of sound.
It's undeniable that Amusement Parks On Fire works best when taken in
one listen. Feerick has mastered the trick of soft-loud dynamics, as well as
effect, and this combination of rise and fall induces the greatest catharsis
when the songs are taken as a whole; Feerick makes a point of working these
dynamic shifts across multiple tracks.
At the same time, should Feerick be lauded for knowing only one trick? While
paying homage to My Bloody Valentine is a noble concept, that band had quite
a few cards up its multilayered sleeve, and most post-punk groups out there
have mined the slow crescendo, from Broken Social Scene to Godspeed You!
Black Emperor As strong as the slow, step-like builds of "Asphalt" and
"Wiper" are, because of the limited palette it's impossible not to feel like
you're hearing the same EP repeated several times over one 40-minute spin.
Nonetheless, there is an undeniable feeling of release as Feerick's echoing
voice repeatedly cries out "Bring the prison back!" as "Wiper" climaxes and
melts from distortion into broken piano notes, and there's a joyous teenage
sadness in the guitar riffs and fast drums of "Venosa", the album's poppiest
"Eighty Eight" attempts to repackage the grunge revolution 10 years too
late, coupling familiar instrumentation with lyrics about a "godawful
charade" and a demand to "Let me see the blood." Defenders of the band will
look upon lines like "All you've ever known is what they've sold you" and
"Another year of abuse / It's not for us to say / But why not?" as deeply
honest, but this kind teenage poetry has long since been played out.
The "I Love the 90s" feel that surrounds APOF would be unendurable if
not for the fact that Feerick accomplishes his modest goal, which is that
when you crank the volume to 11 and put your headphones on, the sheer wall
of noise collapses onto you, pulls you to your feet and sends you staggering
away, renewed. The production, while hardly the deftest interweaving of the
layers of noise, builds up a serviceable instrumental haze that makes it
possible to write off the worst lyrical blunders. And once Feerick learns a
few tricks besides crescendos, decrescendos and teenage vocals, he might
become a noise-rock force to reckon with. As it is, he's just a talented guy
with a decent album that could be half as long.
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