The Trophy Fire

Armor

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Since the San Francisco indie rock trio the Trophy Fire had already completed their full-length follow-up to their first album, 2008's A Lifetime in the Middle of the Ocean, for a fall 2011 release by the time they issued the six-song EP Armor in late spring, it might be wondered, from a marketing point of view, why they bothered to put it out. But marketing considerations fly out the window upon a listen to the disc, a strong, consistent set of pop/rock songs that shows the group off at its best. Guitarist/singer Ben Flanagan is a double threat, first on his instrument, his playing revealing a debt to U2's the Edge with his keening, anthemic riffs. He also has a grounding in earlier rock history, however, with some rhythmic playing that harks back to the Cars' Ric Ocasek, who in turn borrowed the style from songs like Tommy James & the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now." No matter the comparisons, Flanagan makes it all new again, particularly in the context of his bandmates, the sibling team of guitarist Adam Schuman and drummer John Schuman. In particular, the drummer gives a lighter touch to the songs, preferring buoyancy to power, though he is capable of adding unexpected fills that goose the energy of the band, and his switch to four-four toward the end of lead-off track "Glow" makes it sound like a probable concert favorite. Flanagan's second attribute is, of course, his voice" a smooth, low tenor that emphasizes the melodies, especially when strings are added, as on "Armor." In the lyrics, he seems to be trying to keep pace with a woman whose power is all but overwhelming. ("Your victory is at hand," he admits in "Armor.") Though he does his best, by the time of the strummed-acoustic-guitar ballad "Bend" at the close, she's left him. Still, he will try to carry on, singing "Oh, I am just now seeing/That I am on the mend/You can try to break me/But I will try to bend." It is to be hoped that he will succeed in recovering, especially if that's going to mean more timeless pop/rock from the Trophy Fire.

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