The pop-punk pioneers from Michigan are at it again, and this time they’re looking to make an even bigger name for themselves in the punk rock scene. Fireworks’ new album Gospel is definitely a different breed of monster from 2009’s All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion, also on Triple Crown Records. The quintet, led by singer David Mackinder, has made an effort with Gospel to really define their sound and deliver a product that’s different than everything else on the market.
Track one, “Arrows”, is treading familiar ground with a heavy guitar lick to start off the record and then pop influenced arpeggios as Mackinder’s vocals come in. Guitarists Brett Jones and Chris Mojan perfectly accentuate the band’s sound and nostalgic lyrics and really welcome the listener into the story that is told throughout the songs on Gospel.
“I Was Born in the Dark” starts off with a similar heavy guitar lick, but that sound continues throughout the song.
Tymm Rengers pounding drums beats keep the energy going throughout the song and give room for the guitars to breakaway when necessary.
This same style of steady drumming kicks off “X’s on Trees”, and the chugging bass lines provided by Kyle O’Neil couldn’t compliment the guitar riffs any better than they do on this track. “If time was on my side, then the clocks would say I’m sorry,” Mackinder sings, showing that he can still get a personal message across without just spelling everything out for the listener.
“We’re Still Pioneers” is a short, fast paced jam that stands out as a memorable metaphor-filled track that will bear more importance as the record continues, with Mackinder briefly singing “I am the challenger”, the title to the ninth track on the record. Background vocals and ‘whoa, whoa’s compliment the radio friendly and upbeat track.
The next track, “Teeth”, starts off a bit slower with a big emphasis on the grooving bass and guitar. The band’s penchant for memorable melodies works really nicely with the softer side shown on this song, an idea that is really carried throughout the entire album. Mackinder carries his ideas and stories throughout the entire verses, and the guitars manage to do a lot without really overpowering anything.
“Oh, Why Can’t We Start Old and Get Younger?” marks the halfway point for the record, and the guitars are back in the spotlight. “I’ll keep holding on, even though nothing wants to hold me back,” Mackinder chants, keeping the band’s positive thinking mantra alive. The guitars really shape up this track to be a crowd favorite, and the drums once again accent the song nicely leaving enough space for the other instruments.
Continuing where the previous track left off, “Summer” is Gospel’s lead single, and as such is the first taste most fans received of the band’s new sound. Rengers really lets loose with the drums on this song, leaving a lasting impression without a doubt. The song is really indicative of the records overall sound, with the guitar driven melodies as catchy as ever. Mackinder’s lyrics stay nostalgic and friendly, referencing the band’s namesake and belting out “Let’s stay close like the monuments, carve our names in stone.”
“Life is Killing Me” opens up with hard hitting drums and powerful guitar riffs that really create an amazing instrumental. For the first verse at least, the vocals take a back seat and really just manages to function as another instrument, but by the time the chorus kicks in, Mackinder’s voice is front and center once again.
Unique amongst the dozen songs that comprise Gospel is “I Am the Challenger”, an acoustic ballad that truly captures the vintage, almost indie sound that has influenced the band’s previous purely pop-punk mind state. The very simple pitter patter drums in the background keep the song from sounding like a b-side, and the vocal harmonies wrap things up nicely.
“Paintings of Paul Revere” manages to blend the sound from the band’s debut record with their sophomore effort, with the straightforward lyrics coming in at just the right point in the record. To put it simply, this song is quintessential Fireworks—hard hitting drums with striking fills, powerful guitar riffs and melodies, and nostalgic lyrics that deal with the classic coming of age story.
“I Locked My Time Capsule” opens with the guitars in full swing, playing one of the catchiest and most memorable riffs on the record before the drums and bass hope in to keep the song’s strong rhythm section coming. The fast paced verses form a nice contrast to the more reserved chorus, proving that Fireworks still knows how to mix things up and keep their tracks interesting.
Gospel closes with “The Wild Bunch”, a song that can be best described as 2011’s version of “Detroit”, a Fireworks fan favorite from their 2009 release. But the Michigan music makers aren’t retreading old ground, but instead summing up their lives thus far in one perfect punk track. “We all turned out weird enough to laugh at who we used to be,” Mackinder sings in between tightly constructed guitar parts. Comparisons between “The Wild Bunch” and the famed children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” are not hard to draw, especially when coupled with Gospel’s cover art and on one occasion a chorus that is sung entirely with animalistic growls.
Fireworks truly are masters of felt time, and even though Gospel clocks in at a measly 37 minutes in length, it definitely feels like a complete record. The boys in Fireworks managed to tell an entire two years’ worth of stories and life experiences in only twelve tracks, and if the transition from All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion to Gospel is any indication of how the band will continue to grow in the future, then count me in.
BEST TRACKS: Arrows, Summer, The Wild Bunch
PARTING WORDS: Fireworks have really outdone themselves with Gospel, and the record is shaping up as a contender for punk record of the year. Even if they’re going up against such heavyweights as blink-182, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard and The Wonder Years, they’ve crafted a niche sound that can bring out a new experience with each listen. This is the Gospel of Fireworks.