Flaming Fire

Songs from the Shining Temple

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New Jersey's Flaming Fire trade heavily in apocalyptic biblical imagery. On-stage, members of the five-piece band dress up like some kind of postmodern parody of a snake-handler sect out of a Flannery O'Connor novel facing the torments of hellfire as depicted in a Jack Chick tract. (One of the hooks in Songs from the Shining Temple's most immediately catchy song, "Kill the Right People," is a processed "devil" voice repeating the "haw haw" catch phrase familiar to Chick's readers.) Lyrically, their second album is awash in comic book violence and third-hand religious metaphors, and the whole thing has a sort of hipster archness that will undoubtedly rub some listeners the wrong way. What saves Songs from the Shining Temple is the surprisingly effective way the band mixes odd, nearly amusical sounds and twisted genre parodies with unexpectedly catchy pop song melodies that hark back to the playfulness of the new wave era. On tracks like "Centralia" and "Goddess of War," the results are like some mythical collaboration between the B-52's (a comparison helped considerably by the band's two-woman, one-man vocal lineup) and the Residents. The goofy appeal of songs like "Foreign Car," a deadpan re-creation of the sound of mid-'80s Amerindie rockers like Green on Red or the Long Ryders matched to the tale of an implacable avenging angel, is probably limited to a certain steeped-in-irony mindset, but Songs from the Shining Temple is an album that very easily could have been excruciatingly bad, which makes its abundant charms seem all the more impressive.

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