I grew up with second generation music. My punk wasn’t The Clash, it was Bad Religion. My political rap was Jeru, not Public Enemy. And my gravel voiced street sweeping eternally suffering but hammered enough to smile and turn a phrase better than any one writing on clean sheets of paper almost anywhere in the continental united states singer wasn’t Tom Waits, it was Todd A. Todd A(shley), lead singer of the rock band Firewater sometimes seemed like he was being insincere in his cleverness, where lines like “misery loves company, and that’s why everyone loves me” or “I don’t believe in god, ‘cause he don’t believe in me, and he never returns any of my calls” seem brilliant at first, and a little less so the second time. What convinced me that Firewater meant it was the music. On a single album you’d find (give or take), at least one waltz, a klezmer song, an pogues style ballad, something that sounds like a samba, and at least three ways you would never expect to hear a violin in pop music. And here is what is so amazing about the band; none of it sounds forced or appropriated. If the us was dropping cheap Gibson guitars over iraq instead of pamphlets about enemies and drinking water, the resulting music would sound probably a whole lot like a firewater song, rage fighting against resignation, the attempt at an explanation, and the subsequent failure.
And then the band went on hiatus, back in 2004, after releasing the less than stellar covers album “Songs We Should Have Written.” Todd left the us after the election and decided he was, in his own words, going to go to each of the place we were planning on bombing, he made it to a few of them, recording in Afghanistan, India, Turkey, and Israel. And soon, the resulting album, “The Golden Hour” still credited as Firewater even though noone save Todd and Percussionist/Producer Tamir Muskat are steady members, will be released on the unassailable Bloodshot Records.
On a certain level, it’s entirely in line with Todd’s sense of irony that he got an Israeli drummer and a Pakistani guitar player on the same track without it turning into a sappy “let’s all be pals” singalong, but on another lever, Todd was never trying to solve our problems so much as he was shoving them in our face. The tragedy is that had either of the two musicians known that the other was playing on the track, there is a substantial chance they would’ve backed out. Some of the songs I’ve heard from the new album seemed to be really into Bush Bashing, but others sound like something new altogether.
And you can hear/see an interview with Todd about the forthcoming album here.