By Julie Finley
The new Firewater album came out on 9/11, so I have had some time to let it sink in. I don’t think it was a coincidence that it came out on that historic day, either; I truly think that Tod Ashley was thinking that it would be a good day to release the record, just in time for my first wedding anniversary (I’m kidding!).
I believe it’s been about four years since the last Firewater album, The Golden Hour, was released and International Orange! is the perfect sequel. In fact, I think I kinda like this one even more (and I really loved the last one). They are very similar musically, but lyrically there is a much more positive and playful vibe to International Orange!
Tod’s demeanor overall is much more lighthearted, but his dry wit is still very much intact. Black humor and cynicism are staples in Tod’s writing (he’s a great curmudgeon), but they don’t give off a hapless energy. This time around, Tod’s lyrics are actually more humorous with less angst. He definitely still gives that “I don’t give a shit” atmosphere to the lyrics—but yet he does give a shit—though the shit he’s giving isn’t draining the life out of him anymore. It might have to do with his new home base in Istanbul (I am guessing the nomad in him is getting tired and needed a permanent place to rest his head). For the last album, he was more or less in constant transition, and reacting to his self-imposed exile from the United States. International Orange! carries on the saga of this drifter, but this time he doesn’t come across as looking for the exit.
International Orange! begins with an instant classic called “A Little Revolution.” One of the things I like about this song is that it’s the type of revolution I agree with. Nothing violent, not egging anyone on, but more or less shaking up the stagnation in everyday, mundane life (dispensed with some rebellion against an unsaid, oppressive force). It’s vague and not telling anyone specific to go out and blow some shit up, but it’s not some hippie mantra either. It’s perfectly balanced, and I dig it!
Other favorites on this one: “Dead Man’s Boots.” This one is . . . THE SHIT! Classic Firewater, and the lyrics are hilarious! It’s just one of those songs that kicks you right in the ass, and makes you want to stomp! Another classic is “Ex-Millionaire Mambo” which might have some of the funniest lyrics on the whole album, and is probably my favorite overall. It’s ambiguous as to who it’s aimed at, but I got the idea of some asshole like Bernie Madoff being lampooned in this one, or any of the other Wall Street fuckers that have not only screwed everyone over, but had things eventually blow up in their faces (in other words, poetic justice!). Both of those songs were made for being performed live, too; they’re perfect for revving up the crowd (as I witnessed a few weeks back).
I am also quite fond of “The Monkey Song.” Its definitely one of the sillier love songs I have heard in a long time. It made me think of “Apeman” by The Kinks—not in what it sounds like, but in its premise. “Feeling No Pain” is another one I really dig mainly because I can relate to the lyrics. Lyrically, it’s cynicism is on par with how I am personally feeling with age: hitting my late thirties and still being disgusted with many aspects of life, but too numb to give much of a fuck about it anymore. It sums up being pissed off for a long time, but being too tired to bitch about it anymore, so all you can do is poke fun in a nonchalant way.
My other favorite on the album is “Up From the Underground.” It’s another song with a sort of timeless sound to it, wherein it doesn’t really feel like a new song because it fits in with a chronology that is natural, like the aging process!
The whole album gives off the scent of aging, but not becoming an old fart . . . but having to accept the ailments that come with age. Not liking it, but . . . accepting it. Musically, International Orange! culls tidbits of sound from all over the globe, which is something that I’ve come to expect with Firewater releases, and which is one of the reasons why I keep my eye out for Firewater, as there’s always a curve-ball in the midst of the constant, acerbic witticisms.
International Orange! was released on September 11 from Bloodshot Records. You can buy the album directly from the label’s website in CD, vinyl, or MP3 formats.