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Amusement Parks On Fire - Amusement Parks On Fire

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Artist: Amusement Parks On Fire

Album: Amusement Parks On Fire

Label: Filter

Review date: Jul. 5, 2005

Michael Feerick likes My Bloody Valentine. A lot. But guess what? So do most people. And with an extremely small number of exceptions, most people didn't pay such convincing tribute to Kevin Shields when they were 20 years old.

The self-titled debut from Feerick's group, Amusement Parks On Fire, is by no means perfect, but for what it is – an entirely self-performed and self-produced record from a British no-name under U.S. drinking age (lousy Puritans) – it's a staggering first outing.

The most obvious point of comparison doubles as Feerick's most notable strength: the walls of sound. He constructs them carefully and lovingly with guitars and occasional strings and piano – or at least he does during the instrumental intro "23 Jewels," which sounds more like Sigur Rós than anything else. But when it becomes "Venus In Cancer" with a burst of distortion, it seems natural, even necessary. The fact that the distortion remains in similar form through another five or six songs somehow isn't stale or bothersome. The strangest thing about Amusement Parks On Fire is that so much of it sounds the same and that it's so hard to mind.

For instance, there is essentially only one vocal melody throughout the album, for which Feerick intones some snatch of adolescent passion – both more earnestly and more audibly than Shields ever did – and repeats it a handful of times for a verse. Some of the better songs, like "Venus" and the rousing "Vensosa," are distinguishable only because they have distinguishable choruses; elsewhere verses are punctuated with subtle guitar changes or another layer of distortion, or long building interludes that wind back toward more verses. At times it's tempting to think of Feerick in the same vein as groups like Juno and Taking Pictures who have the perfect sonic texture nailed down but can't be bothered to write a melody, yet you get the impression that he's trying harder than that; he just hasn't hit his stride.

So at the same time that Amusement Parks On Fire is a largely monochromatic album, there's more drive behind what melody there is to be found than could be claimed for Loveless or most of its offspring. Feerick's songs just don't have the same languor; where Shields often sounded content to sit back and listen to the pleasing novelty of his textures, this kid uses them to write rock songs, emotive and youthful. Which is in turn why the record is so promising despite its flaws: these songs wouldn't hold up that well without their sonic ingenuity, but for the moment they don't have to. Besides, songwriting can be refined, and Feerick gives every reason to hope for something really dazzling in a year or two.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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