The fourth album from this country-rock semi-supergroup, Undertow failed to yield any major hit songs like the band's first three releases, yet is, in some ways, Firefall's most interesting and consistently pleasing effort. Released a year and a half after Elan, the group's first platinum album, Undertow was recorded at a time when the members of Firefall were beginning to succumb to infighting, drug and alcohol addiction, and the omnipresent "creative differences." Of course, these differences were an essential part of the Firefall sound, as the group's two principal songwriters, Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett, had very distinct styles. On Undertow, there is a greater stylistic variety than ever and the record is infused with a desperate intensity (perhaps caused by the tension resulting from the members' personal problems) not apparent on other Firefall albums. Highlights include "Headed for a Fall," a melancholy, Fleetwood Mac-esque, slow rocker; and "Business Is Business," a Burnett solo acoustic effort. Another standout is "Leave It Alone," a very un-Firefall power-pop song which sounds more like the Shoes than the Byrds. The CD reissue of Undertow includes three bonus tracks, all of which (especially "Crying in the Night," a Stevie Nicks cover) are as good as anything on the original album.
by Pemberton Roach