Review : Firewater - International Orange!
PopmattersIt’s difficult for leftist firebrands when a progressive politician wins a major electoral victory. Liberalism is built on an often oppositional mindset and it’s hard for someone to either start opposing those they used to support or else defending the powers that be. Some activists deal with this by shining a light on ills that persist even during liberal administrations (think Ted Leo or Fucked Up). Some deal with this by becoming somewhat-reluctant cheerleaders for the idea of incremental change (think Billy Bragg or Bruce Springsteen). Others, apparently, decide to invent their own demons and scenarios with little direct bearing on reality to rail against. On their seventh studio album (second for Bloodshot Records), International Orange!, Firewater has apparently decided to go the third route.
Lead singer and driving force behind the band, Tod A recorded this album in the midst of the social and political upheavals of the Arab Spring. All around him old regimes are falling like dominoes, with America stepping in and supporting peoples’ revolutions in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with words and sometimes weapons, while in places like the United Arab Emirates and Syria, America continued offering tacit or open support to similarly brutal leaders. An American expat such as he needed only look outside his window or turn on Al-Jazeera to find genuine inspiration for grassroots democracy or bitter disappointment flowing from his own government. Amidst this sea of truly historical events, with its swirl of hopefulness and despair, freedom and repression, one would think that there would be plenty of fodder for some bluntly challenging and searingly relevant songs. Unfortunately, there is nothing like that to be found on this record.
These songs lack any specificity of insight about the current moment or, failing that, any sort of timeless relatability that could transcend the day’s events. Instead we’re just left with boilerplate laments about hard times and vague warnings aimed at a generic “them” from an equally unspecific “us”. For example, “Ex-Millionaire Mambo” starts with Tod A describing himself as “drunk as the Pope on a hot afternoon”, a description that seems equal part lazy swipe and puzzling non sequitur, before moving on to a listless story punctuated intermittently by lively yelps of “MAMBO!”. Elsewhere, “The Monkey Song” features a chorus just about as moronic as you would imagine from the title and an inexplicable faux-50’s talk show host introducing the track and predicting (incorrectly, in my case) that will listener would enjoy the song so much as to demand an immediate repeat listen....full text
PastemagazineFirewater has a unique ability of mashing up different cultural music and blending it into one neatly packaged punk rock song. In their latest album International Orange! Firewater draws inspiration from their new hometown of Istanbul, Turkey, bringing yet another culturally diverse and high-energy album.
After touring for three years for The Golden Hour, songwriter Tod A made his way to Istanbul where he discovered a melting-pot of culture. After being inspired by his surroundings, Tod A decided that Istanbul had to be the place where he would record International Orange! He called Tamir Muskat, who mixed The Golden Hour, and the pair picked up right where they had left off on their previous collaboration, this time taking inspiration from their new surroundings, Istanbul and Tel Aviv.
International Orange! is a perfect representation of the chaotic world surrounding Firewater at the time. The pair was in Tel Aviv during the 2011 Arab Spring, which comes across in their lyrics. With songs about revolutions, riots and fights, Firewater captures the uncertainty of a region in the middle of a revolt. With a heavy emphasis on percussion and horn sections, International Orange! never fails to excite....full text
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