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It has been a long time since I've found a rock band that truly struck me to the point where I start listening to their music on rotation for the entire day I found it, especially a band that didn't debut back in the 60s or 70s. Yesterday though, after bookmarking their homepage on a complete whim (I can't even remember how I ended up there), I decided to check out a band that has since struck me to the point that and now I can't stop listening to them.
Firebug, out of Los Angeles by way of my home town, Chicago, may have single handedly renewed my faith that the indie rock scene is being a place where some truly creative minds exist. Their music is so unique, while still remaining loyal to some of the greats in rock and roll, that I'm completely mesmerized... and I've only heard 6 songs so far.
Apparently Firebug has been making quite a splash on the college radio circuit, with music bloggers, and on the west coast club scene, while winning awards for songwriting and honing their sound. Equal parts folk, hard rock, pop, grunge and blues, all blended into a dark, smoky and seductive sound that has just a bit of a hypnotic pulse, drenched in a mystic feel that recalls 70s era classic rock. They have a groove that draws you in with some guitar grit, often starting off with a simple riff. The guitar work of Jules Shapiro is perfectly subtle while still sounding huge, pushed and raw, like rough edged delta blues mixed with hard rock, yet never turning into fuzz, mud or full on metal. Combined with lyrics and vocals (and rhythm guitar) sung soulfully by Juliette Tworsey and great bass and drum work, makes for a band that borders on mystic era Led Zeppelin (think "No Quarter" or "When the Levee Breaks"), while hinting at other bands from that era including the Doors, early Black Sabbath, the Who, Pink Floyd and maybe the Velvet Underground a bit as well.
"Walk Again" is a great track with a catchy feel that has a lot of soul, and a definite earthy feel to its guitar work that just barely hints at southern rock, while "Paradise" has an opening that recalls the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" before launching into a catchy hard rock groove with a little dark and soulful twist. Both "Just Because" and "Forever Won't Wait" have a folksy element to their guitar work before diverging into two very different songs. "Forever Won't Wait, stays folksy with a bit of country flavored slide guitar, building upon itself until it is a full fledged, haunting ballad-esque type song. "Just Because" goes the opposite route building to a hard edged yet also haunting chorus that puts this song right in line with Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore," but darker, more eastern flavored and more progressive. "End of the World" is also a subtle starting song that builds into gritty dark edged power pop.
Although the comparisons to other songs I am making are reasonable to my ears, you shouldn't think that the band is just copying the greats. There is something different about Firebug that makes these songs more than just new takes on old ideas. They sound unique while paying homage to their influences by immersing this music in a sort of smoky darkness that is earthy, gritty (maybe even slightly gothic) and far more seductive sounding tonally. They create a completely unique feel in their own right, that I find quite compelling to listen to.
My favorite song so far (although, as always it's hard to choose as all the ones I've heard are great) is "Breakdown". This song takes their eastern feel that one step further. Starting with a mystic influenced rhythm guitar lick and softer parts, it builds up to a hard edged chorus, before echoing back a rougher, pulsing version of the original riff, the whole time feeling very primal and alive. What I like most about this track is the way the backing parts drop during the versus, creating an effect that adds to the drama of the song and the feel without being over the top. Combined with rough guitar parts that seem to put that perfect period on certain phrases and a lead guitar part that I don't think I could improve in anyway really as it fits the music just so well, makes this song a great mystic flavored jam.
The centerpiece of all these Firebug songs is certainly the vocals of Juliette Tworsey. Her vocal style seems to fit so perfectly with this music that it pushes these songs much further than they might go with a less talented singer. She goes from playful and coy to soulful, subtle and whispering to a growl, sometimes within the same word. At times her voice seems to lighten the scene only to slink along back into the darkness the next second all the while having a slightly haunting feel that deepens the mood that much more. A great fit for these songs and match for the lyrics.
If you're interested in rock and roll, specifically the darker side of rock and roll, all the smoky, gritty goodness that comes out at night, all the hypnotic, mystic flavors that made rock and roll more than just a new take on the blues, you should definitely be listening to Firebug. I haven't heard music that I liked this much in a while. I can't wait to hear more and see what other styles, influences and surprises this talented band has up its sleeves.
Definitely check out the band's homepage here: http://firebugmusic.com/
Even more definitely check out the band's myspace as there you can listen to a few tracks: http://www.myspace.com/firebug
There are also a few other places online where you can listen to a few other tracks, so keep an eye out until we can get a full length new release from this great band.