Fireworks' earlier material was, at best, bonus fare for hardcore New Found Glory fans. But when they released their first proper full-length in 2009, All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion, they added a Midwestern dreariness and more literate quality to their songs, and eased up considerably on the easycore worship. It was no surprise, then, to hear further growth on last year's Bonfires EP.
Their sophomore LP, Gospel, is yet another positive stride for the band as they continue to shed their once tributary flair and morph into an earnest, unique pop-punk outfit. Remote traces of hardcore and skate-punk add a lift in tempo and increase brashness, while chunky power-pop muscle enhances amicable melodies. Frontman David Mackinder's voice has become a little less nasally and somewhat more wistful, and it gels with the band's refreshingly dynamic (and often dainty) guitars.
The twinkly restraint of opener “Arrows” and scrappy double-time in “I Was Born In The Dark” find the band showing off their newly versatile chops. Then the middle third of the record arrives, sporting classic pop chops reminiscent of recent Saves The Day, from the bassline of “Teeth” to the choppy opening chords of “Oh, Why Can't We Start Old And Get Younger,” which seem to crib STD's “Bones.” “Life Is Killing Me” transitions from fast tempos to punchy stop-starts effortlessly, while “I Am The Challenger” is a nice, though moodier, companion piece to the Wonder Years' “Hey Thanks.” Closer “The Wild Bunch” takes simple joy in being part of a collectively weird group of friends, and it's simply endearing.
It becomes a little more apparent with every release that Fireworks don't necessarily wish to preach to the choir. Their improvement has been incremental from record to record, but this continual growth is something to be proud of as they delve deeper into greater depths and exploratory songwriting.
Triple Crown http://www.triplecrownrecords.com