Further Seems Forever

How to Start a Fire

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In the time since the band's 2001 debut, The Moon Is Down, ex-Further Seems Forever vocalist Chris Carrabba took his Dashboard Confessional project from the top of the indie charts to the tingling nerve endings of female hearts everywhere. But while Carrabba's departure is notable, it hasn't left Further Seems Forever high and dry. Ex-Affinity shouter Jason Gleason has stepped behind the mike, and with his help FSF has turned in a focused and fiery sophomore effort. It's the emocore equivalent of singeing an ant with a sunbeam. The band's powerful appearance on a 2002 Weezer tribute was no joke. Further Seems Forever shows off a similar melodic sense here, channeling it into the familiar more More MORE! approach favored by Tooth & Nail's stable of two-guitar combos (think Juliana Theory) or Victory's Taking Back Sunday. Kicking off with the title cut, Gleason quickly establishes his talent for expanding the ends of lines until they shake and quiver like bowstrings. "Sound" might feature some of the year's best dynamics, shifting effortlessly from a rumbling post-hardcore verse to a harmony-drenched chorus that wouldn't be out of place on a Cheap Trick record. Throughout How to Start a Fire, FSF shows off a greater understanding of formula. Their sound incorporates all of the genre's commonalities, but rousing material like "Against My Better Judgement" stays on its toes even as the levels are maxed out. Guitars scream, solos appear and disappear, and drums dance around Gleason's opaque lyrics like a prizefighter. But even if the eventual dovetail is clear up ahead, that doesn't make it any less satisfying when it arrives. There is the occasional misstep. A line like "I am the water/I am waves crashing onto you" is somewhat problematic, since it's unclear whether the band is referencing its Christian beliefs or writing a particularly melodramatic love poem. "Insincerity as an Artform" is another point where Baroque lyricisms threaten to spring a leak in How to Start a Fire. But Further Seems Forever rights the ship with strong melody and enormous rock guitar, further establishing an identity separate from both its peers and the aftereffects of Carrabba's departure. [Some initial pressings of Fire were accompanied by a ten-song Tooth & Nail sampler.]

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