POZ Review: Sparks The Rescue - Sparks The Rescue EP
It is funny how quickly things can change. At this time last year, Sparks The Rescue were riding high off of the release of their second full length for Fearless Records, Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With, and a tour with scene mainstays The Dangerous Summer; by the end of 2011 they found themselves short a bassist and a drummer and victims of a something-less-than-mutual departure from their label. Down but not out, Sparks The Rescue regrouped, retrenched, and cobbled together a Kickstarter campaign; the resultant Sparks The Rescue EP marks the band’s return to full independence, and they have wasted no time taking advantage of their new freedom.
Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With frequently found Alex Roy playing the sexually aggressive and cocksure alpha, a preening, unrepentant (if occasionally unwitting) lothario and a Peeping Tom. If that album proffered glimpses of the libidinous id run rampant, then Sparks The Rescue catches Roy dealing with the inevitable aftermath, wounded and recoiled, at times jabbing at his prey-turned-predator with the same silver tongue he used to recklessly lure them in (the bitter burn of acerbic lead single “Disaster”), at others meekly licking his wounds (the raw-nerved regret of “Dream. Catch. Her.” that radiates like a halo around Roy’s tough guy facade). When not lashing out, Roy lashes in; there is a palpable disgust in his strained tones as he begins to recognize past sins, a craving for purification in his lyrics. In “Burn All Of My Clothes” he dares the world, “c’mon, destroy everything I used to be,” a challenge and a plea wrapped all in one; “let the fire destroy the ghosts of my past life.” It comes across as self-centered at times, but if perhaps Roy spends a little too much time gazing into the mirror, he is at least unrelentingly honest about what he sees reflected back.
Complimenting the angsty lyrical turn is a sharp shift in the band’s musical dynamic towards the “hard” end of the spectrum; Sparks The Rescue finds the band revisiting their post-hardcore roots for the first time since 2007’s The Secrets We Can’t Keep. Tracks like “Water Your Heart (Safe, Sound and Buried)” reverberate with the ghosts of mid-2000s Taking Back Sunday, Aiden and Bayside. Lead guitarist Mike Naran dances spiky arpeggios all across “Disaster” (which also features the band’s first screamed vocal in half a decade) and “Burn All Of My Clothes”. Naran’s perfectly concise solo in “Water Your Heart” crackles with electricity. The band’s new rhythm section, bassist David Pait and (especially) drummer Dylan Taylor bring a boomier heft to Sparks The Rescue’s recordings than ever before. If the band’s two prior full lengths were hook-driven affairs, Sparks The Rescue rides atop the force of its reconstructed rhythm section.
Ultimately, it seems Sparks The Rescue have emerged into independence as a denser, tougher, gristlier band. If anything, Sparks The Rescue feels a touch reactionary with each reined-in hook a passive-aggressive refusal to pander. Their new orientation might not do much to widen their small (albeit loyal) audience, but those are precisely the kinds of concerns they do not need to bother with anymore. Sparks The Rescue EP is a conscious move away from the power-pop of the band’s last two full-lengths, and while those albums’ sounds never felt forced, it is easy to sense now that, had they had their druthers, Sparks The Rescue might have maintained this edge all along. It’s a change that might take a bit of getting used to for fans of the band’s more recent work, but in the end it seems bound to be for the positive.
by Jesse Richman, edited by Michael Meeze
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