Amusement Parks on Fire
Label: Filter US
In the span of five years, Nottingham-born Michael Feerick has taken his Amusement Parks on Fire from a 16 year-old’s bedroom project to a thunderous five-piece, though you can’t argue much has changed in his approach to music. For Feerick and his mates, the ’90s still reign as supreme as they ever did on ’05’s self-titled debut and ’06’s Out of the Angeles; Feerick is an obvious fan of Kevin Shields, and to this already noisy recipe for guitar squall, the brand-new Road Eyes adds the relentlessness of Siamese Dream’s louder turns and, if it doesn’t share the kind of indelible songcraft Billy Corgan was capable of, it at least calls to mind the kind of wall-of-alternative sound that ’90s also-rans Hum would ride into cult status, then to oblivion, on 1998’s Downward is Heavenward.
The Michael Patterson (Great Northern, Midnite Vultures) co-produced Road Eyes (whose title, for all I know, is a reference to Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps tour, while its gleaming cover looks instead like a latter day INXS release) opens promisingly with its title track, an explosion of disaffected racket. Beginning with aquatic shimmers of sound, Feerick’s layers of guitar soon kick in in the same sort of way the Pumpkins’ “Today” kicks in; the slabs of molten guitar simultaneously buzz yet carry a distinct weight and ethereal backing vocals offer up a doomed chorus that cannot compete with the all the distortion. You can sympathize with the cathartic effect here; up against a sound this enveloping, there’s not much you can do but let yourself get carried away.
Unfortunately, once you’re swept up by “Road Eyes,” the proceeding songs lull you to sleepy inattention at worst and at best, make you feel like you’re floating in a swimming pool, water level above ears. Songs like “Raphael” and “Echo Park // Infinite Delay” aren’t too different from the highlight title track, but share enough in common to maintain a common denominator of woolly, insistent fuzz for much of Road Eyes. First single “Flashlight Planetarium,” though, sounds like B-side-worthy Silversun Pickups and the acoustic palette cleansers of “Inside Out” and “So Naturally” could be anyone with money and a studio – especially with Feerick’s over-emotive vocals edging a little too close to that whiny-boy emasculation pop-flavor-of-the-month.
At the point the penultimate “Water From the Sun” comes into focus, with its sound collage of amplifier buzz and synths bridges interesting common ground between Feerick’s love of noise and evident desire to be less blustery, the damage is already done, the record already forgotten. Road Eyes, then, is not necessarily a failure on Feerick’s part, but is, optimistically, a transitional record that points toward the kinds of successes Feerick could achieve in the future.
by Chris Middleman
Key Tracks: Road Eyes