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Not being too familiar with Sunny Day Real Estate other than their fantastic record Diary, hearing about their reformation as the Fire Theft was quite surprising. They have been one of the more respected independent groups in the early to mid nineties, and are often credited as being one of the better emo groups. Hard music with great lyrics, screaming vocals - they were an energy filled, explosive band. Yet when they had announced they were reforming as the Fire Theft, albeit without guitarist Dan Hoerner, no one was really sure what the music was going to sound like: Sunny Day, or something else.
Yet, the Fire Theft's self titled debut is more sweeping, more melodic than what would have been expected from their former band. The music takes on a less ragged edge, and plays on crescendo and buildup. Jeremy Enigk's vocals don't strain at all, yet he uses his voice to its fullest extent. The record is described as "a place where bleak visions stew, desperately searching for a crack of light; desperation divided by desire." That's exactly how the record sounds: dark with a distant view of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Immediately the record starts off with sweeping melodies, strings, harmonies… very fresh and different and unexpected. With the brief piano interlude "Waste Time Segue," it leads into "Oceans Apart," a spacey, harmony filled buildup song. The vocal harmonies towards the beginning and the end sound very prog-rock, yet unique.
The first single "Chain," is an off-tempo, heavier song. Lyrically it's very cryptic, but almost obvious; Enigk's good at making it seem like he could be talking about anything, yet at times he's very clear and poetic.
"Backwards Blues" is a very interesting instrumental. Filled with a meandering bassline and backwards guitar, it's a dreamy, floating song. Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith explore their rhythm instruments to every degree, especially here where they jam to the spaciness of the song.
"Summertime" and "Houses" are very Beatle-esque in that they are very simple, yet have depth and structure. More on the positive-sounding end, these songs show the talent and tightness of the band.
The Fire Theft is a very complex record that moves from one musical sound to another. They draw on many influences, yet keep a very unique sounding tone to their songs, and don't shy away from going off on musical departures. Though the album talks a lot about uncertainty, and has dark flavors to it, the buildup comes to a positive climax. It's quite a departure for what Sunny Day was, yet shows the growth of the members into the sophisticated Fire Theft.
Tom Fraher is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.