Amusement Parks on Fire

Self-titled

(Filter; 2005)

By Alan Baban | 28 December 2007

Fact: Amusement Parks on Fire is Mike Feerick.

 

The whole shebang (instruments, production, song writing) was done by Mike over 3 years. Mike is now 19 years old. Why am I jealous? It goes without saying that if you listen to enough music that capitalises on its own DIY ethic, the naïve impression that ‘Hey! I could do this for a living!’ rubs off on you. School bands, cheap four tracks, bedroom recordings, a couple of musically inclined buddies, a gig at school chapel (if you’re lucky), and then:

 

Guitarist: You’re not getting those high notes right!

Vocalist: Since when did perfection matter?

Guitarist:  Well – it does now.

 

(Band breaks up a week later; two months if above conversation occurs imminently before summer break)

         

Recording an album alone may be depressing, but at least you don’t have to contend with trying to make amends between a bassist who wants to be Lou Barlow, and a drummer who’d rather be that crazy dude from Bloc Party than Ringo frickin’ Starr. You have complete artistic control. You are your own puppet. It nearly drove Billy Corgan mad during the Siamese Dream recording sessions, but he came out with his masterpiece.

         
Amusement Parks on Fire may not be of the same calibre, but is a mightily impressive achievement from a precocious artist intuitively finding his own voice in between the echoes of others. So yes, one can easily track down the ancestry of the band’s post-rock leanings, and this debut may lack the hallmarks of an instant classic, but it gives heavy indications of greater things to come.
         
The mesmeric opening instrumental "23 Jewels," with its droning synthesisers, and maudlin atmospherics, steadily builds up to a crescendo like you know who before being caterwauled into the fit of feedback that segues into "Venus in Cancer." In an increasingly vapid musical climate where people want hooks!hooks!hooks! and they want them now!now!now!, an opening instrumental that confidently maintains its lull for four minutes, without resorting to cheap shots of tonal schizophrenia, or utilising any kind of head-bopping groove, is more than a pleasant surprise. It proves the band doesn’t believe in gimmicks. And, boy, they don’t.

         
Amusement Parks on Fire don’t need drum beats and fancy claps (heh); they could do without both. Feerick doesn’t need to yelp like a rapid dog to prove that he’s tender; the music, refreshingly, speaks for itself. The guitars on ‘Venosa’ may amp-blowing monoliths of sound but they have strong symphonic foundations, upon which Feerick’s delicate, double-tracked vocals steadily climb a register, a beam of clarity held tightly by the fog.

         
Amusement
Parks on Fire is the outburst. Not a cheap riposte, but a cleansing flood of agglutinated thoughts; " All you ever knew is what they sold you." Snippets of clichés slip through, generalisations abound --- but isn’t that the point? Feerick isn’t the messiah. He doesn’t have the specifics to make the day to day as easy as joining the dots, but he’ll make you aware of the web, and how it links our Charles Manson’s to our Charles Kennedy's.

Buzzsaw guitars rigorously drill through "Smokescreen," but they also trailblaze a burning wood’s worth of feedback that slowly, but surely, progresses to the dying embers of "The Ramones Book," a sombre ballad, based around the refrain "Don’t go back there." The mood is the same, the feeling of floating hangs over the music, as akin to the spiritualist ethic of being an observer of yourself, the feedback transition breathtakingly forming the transition to these superficially different songs that share more than just a few genes.

         
Maybe it’s the human condition. Maybe we are all on the same spectrum, but are running to our ends. The ends, though, never make the means, and as the final noisy swathes of "Local Boy Makes God" move of in the distance, you realise the closer couldn’t be better named. Who cares if people don’t get what you’re about. Since when did other people’s reference points matter?

         
You are your own puppet. Cradle your doll towards your nearest record outlet, and give Amusement Parks on Fire a spin. See if you like it.