En tiempos como los que corren, en los que la fusión de estilos es otro estilo más, nos llegan discos que mezclan varias tendencias con absoluta normalidad, en algunas ocasiones con mejor resultado que en otros, lo cierto es que esta fusión de estilos no es ajena al Shoegaze, y hay bandas, como Amusement Parks on Fire, que realizan esta fusión de sonoridades para dar como resultado lo que algunos han dado en llamar Star-Gaze (término que me resulta abominable, o Nu-Gaze). En cualquier caso, este tercer álbum de Amusement Parks on Fire peca de auténtica autocomplacencia, de una cierta dosis de soberbia sonora que le lleva hasta una sobreproducción que roza con el sonido épico de gentes como Glasvegas o Placebo. Los muros de guitarra de la mayor parte de sus temas se dan de bruces con una cierta reiteración en sus sonidos, y los riffs del discos resultan a la larga repetitivos. Da la sensación de que cuando has escuchado los dos primeros cortes ya has oído todo el disco entero, y al final del mismo acabas dándole al botón de “siguiente tema” porque todas las canciones tienen algo en común. Una pena, porque un disco que comienza de manera soberbia con dos temazos como Road eyes y Flaslight Planetarium se merece un final mucho mejor. Enmedio nos encontramos con demasiada paja, demasiada reiteración y autocomplacencia, llegando a recordarnos por momentos sonidos del Post-Grunge (Raphael, Echo Park/Infinite delay). La producción del disco ha corrido a cargo de Michael Patterson (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Beck, Great Northern) y Nic Jodoin (The Morlocks). Una cierta ambición no disimulada por acercarse a sonidos más adultos y llenar estadios. Nos quedamos con sus discos anteriores.
“In evolutionary biology, a new species is produced when an animal population becomes so isolated it can no longer reproduce with its own kind. In music, the taxonomy is largely descriptive — music is part of a genre if it exhibits the characteristics of that genre. So it’s difficult to take lead singer Michael Feerick seriously when he coins a new term, “stargaze,” to describe his music. Not just because shoegaze has long been peppered with cosmological ideas, but because on Road Eyes, Amusement Parks on Fire walks too much like the same old duck to deserve separate taxonomy.
In contrast to their first two albums, production duties have been shifted outside the band to Michael Patterson, producer of Beck’s Midnight Vultures, and Nic Jodoin of The Morlocks. The hired guns have ensured that the song lengths are shorter and the songs themselves are more direct than previous efforts. “Water from the Sun” is one of the better moments, largely because its slower 3/4 tempo gives the song some breathing space. All cylinders are firing, with ethereal choirs joining chunky riffs before obligatorily dissolving into two minutes of nicely-textured noise. There’s much to like here if you’re not finished kicking at that particular open door.
But while there are excellent moments on Road Eyes, you’ll often find them pushed to the margins. “Wave of the Future” begins with a massive, steadily-pulsing texture for roughly the first 20 seconds before dropping the beat to reveal a much less worthwhile song. On “Inside Out,” a syncopated guitar line collides with a chiming piano, obscuring the beat to charming effect. But again, bombast prevails over invention, and the song struggles to escape from under volleys of tom rolls and mammoth guitar chords.
There’s a funny tension in all of these nu-gaze bands that isn’t tough to hear, now that the tempos have been sped up and the vocals pushed forward. Buying an album like Loveless or Souvlaki was a commitment to lovingly peel back layers of distortion, drums, and reverb, and if we didn’t like what we found, then at least we got some mystery out of it. Having utterly hackneyed lines like “I’ve been working out in the blazing sun/ America’s waiting, I’ve gotta go.” on “Echo Park // Infinite Delay” staring you in the face takes away a lot of the adventure. Pile on the puzzling reference of the album title and you have about 48 minutes of music that so lacks focus that it’s difficult to appreciate it as anything other than pastiche.
Road Eyes postures at the nebulous and infinite — the chorus of the titular first song closes with “anything can happen in your eyes, road eyes.” But that’s also its greatest flaw. Road Eyes is so hard to pin down only because it exists as a constellation of its musical referents” (tinymixtapes.com)
Please note that the influences stated were merely a list of the last bands we’d just seen, in order… And also, one of us missed that plane!
By Aoife Barry
Amusement Parks on Fire is an English band that was formed in 2004, when a then 20 year old Michael (Mike) Feerick started a solo project that was influenced by a love of prog and a teenage interest in noise and grunge. After releasing a self-titled solo debut album on INVADA Records ( run by Geoff Barrow of Portishead) he went on to form a full band so he could start touring. Since then they’ve released another album, ‘Out of the Angeles’, three EPs and are working on their third album. And as Aoife Barry found out when talking to Mike and bass player Dan Knowles, they’re not too keen on being lumped in with the shoegazer scene.
Interviewing a band when they’re trying to find the right tram to get in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin to ensure they get to the airport on time, while they swig from a bottle of Ros? and recount their recent jaunt backstage at a Radiohead gig, should sound like the stuff of Spinal Tap nightmares. But in the case of Amusement Parks on Fire, the genuine enthusiasm and humour of members Dan and Mike makes for an unusual but unforgettable interviewing experience.
As they make their way out of their apartment to try to find a tram, Mike talks about the recent Radiohead concert which they attended on the night of his birthday, two days before. But next up for Amusement Parks on Fire is the slightly less A-list tour of their own, where along the way they’ll be playing Whelan’s. It turns out the gigs are a way of getting them out of the rehearsal room and onto the stage, as they’ve been holed away writing their new album for the past number of months.
“We kind of based [the tour] around the Dublin gig ? we wanted to play abroad, we wanted to play Dublin,” explains Mike. “We’ve been writing for a long time for the new album, so we wanted to do a show just for fun, and do a really good show and just have some fun and just kind of I dunno…what’s the phrase, dust ourselves off a bit!” he laughs.
So what can people expect from the gig? “Whelan’s is basically the biggest show we’re doing on the tour,” says Mike. “We just wanted to do it for fun. We’re practising a lot and doing a lot of stuff for the new album – we’re also really enjoying playing some old songs from our first album which we haven’t played for years. So Whelan’s should be kind of big, a big show.”
He passes the phone to Dan as he attempts to negotiate the direction they should be headed in. Dan elaborates on whether they’ll be road-testing some of the new tracks during the tour. “We’re thinking maybe half of them new ? we don’t want to take the piss, but we want to get some new tracks on there,” he says. “Maybe sneak a few in and see how people respond.” So how is the making of the new album going? “On the last album…we went with longer tracks and now we’re going with shorter ones!” he laughs. “It’s very similar ? it sounds kind of similar, it’s just maybe half the length for each song. I think we always intended to make ‘Out of the Angeles’ a pop album, but it sort of grew and they got long, so the new one’s gonna be like two/three minute[long] songs hopefully.”
The phone’s passed back to Mike. “The new stuff’s very different,” he says, at odds to what his bandmate has just said. “I suppose it’s a bit more pop-y, it’s kind of a bit more classic sounding …It was kind of annoying that everyone considered us a shoegazer band…we’re not really…I don’t really like that sort of music. I guess the new stuff’s a bit more live…we’ve got Ken Thomas producing it, he did the Sigur Ros albums. So he’s producing it and it’s sounding very different. It’s pretty classic sounding and pretty basic.”
So who would the band be influenced by? “Radiohead are a big influence, My Bloody Valentine are obviously a big influence ? they weren’t initially, when I made the first album they weren’t, but now they are a big influence,” says Mike. “Neil Young is my hero, he’s incredible, his guitar work is incredible. So I guess like Neil Young, Radiohead, Nirvana…I was a massive Pink Floyd fan.”
Amusement Parks on Fire are frequently referred to as a shoegazer band, but it seems, from what Mike and Dan say, that this couldn’t be further from their intention.
Dan takes up the explanation: “I think people can take it on their own terms. People will always try to define things in ways they understand. So we had a guy come up to us after a gig before and tell us he loved us and we reminded him of the Lost Prophets. We are the least like Lost Prophets band we know! But he likes it, so that was good you know? Whatever terms people like to describe it on, they’re just using their own frames of reference and whatever memories they’ve got to try and make some sense of what we’re doing at any given time. So that’s fine, you know? If people like it, they like it, and if they don’t they don’t.”
But why the distaste for the shoegazer tag? “I think the reason why the shoegazing thing is annoying is because most shoegazing bands were f*cking bad!” laughs Dan. “They were really bad you know! I mean genuinely, My Bloody Valentine were incredible but I like a lot of the American bands ? I think we’re more interested in the American bands that maybe influenced them, or shared some kind of love, like Dinosaur Jr, and Sugar and Bob Mould’s stuff, Husker Du…the kind of melody with the fierce guitars.”
Mike elaborates: “People think we’re some weird, avant garde shoegaze band, but we’re really not, we just enjoy playing music. The new album sounds a bit like Neil Young…really kind of stripped bare, that kind of way.” This statement will come as a shock to anyone familiar with the band’s material, but it looks as though the gig in Whelan’s will be a good opportunity to see how their sound has developed, as Mike explains, just seconds before they board the tram that will take them on the first leg of their trip back home. “I guess in Dublin we’re just looking to do a really kind of straight down the line set, all the stuff we’ve wanted to do. We love playing in Dublin, Dublin’s always been lovely to us ? we’re kind of excited really.” (amusementparksonfire.com)
“As a disciple of the teaching that all things connected with Kevin Shields were gold-plated, rose-crested spots of honey-dripped sounds that descended straight outta heaven rather than NG3, Mike Feerick set himself a seemingly unachievable mission.
From the confines of his bedroom, his ambition was to create a piece of timeless, genre redefining multi-layered genius that would be talked about for years to come. What he actually achieved was not the inaugural idea of a lone piece, but instead nine adventures in sound that merely wipes the floor with every seismic pretender who’s ever tried to work out the lyrics to ‘Soon’ and recreate every chord sequence found on ‘Isn’t Anything’.
And let us not forget the fact that Mike Feerick, aka Amusement Parks On Fire, was just 16 years old when he started writing, playing every instrument on and recording this album, a feat that surely falls somewhere in between the guises of astonishing’_ and ‘remarkable’_. Now three years down the line, his masterpiece is complete, oh yes. As with the live shows, Feerick has called upon various associates from within the Nottingham music scene to fill in the cracks so to speak, but largely this record is down to him, and him alone.
For anyone who’s seen APOF live, this record mainly consists of the key elements of those sporadic, indefinably LOUD performances, interspersed with a couple of almost classical interludes that reinforce the genius-in-a-bottle waiting to be unleashed (…)
No doubt there will be the odd cynic who will claim to have heard this type of record done before, and to a degree they may have a point, but I doubt anyone’s ears can claim to have received such a melange that is equal measures sonic battery and aural beauty as ‘Amusement Parks On Fire’ in recent times. Quite simply, this is a stunning debut record, a triumphant fanfare that heralds the arrival of yet another precocious young talent onto the UK’s ever-burgeoning music scene” (pitchfork.com)