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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

How to Start a Fire

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Feb
How to Start a Fire
Sounds like … fans of Sunny Day Real Estate, Thursday, Fugazi, and Taking Back Sunday will fall in love with Further Seems Forever's polished perpetuation of the emo genreAt a Glance … though no longer fronted by Chris Carrabba, FSF presses on with even more melodic bedlam and impassioned vocals than those found on their 2001 debut

When Further Seems Forever first unveiled their highly celebrated The Moon Is Down release, the public's preliminary focal point was on the band's behind the scenes relations as opposed to their emotionally charged pedigree and rhythmic assault. All eyes were on lead singer Chris Carrabba.

Just before the disc was released, Carrabba pulled out of the band he helped form in order to pursue outside interests. Though they were virtually unknown back then, Carrabba quickly took on the equally heartfelt Dashboard Confessional project, earning national attention through previously unlikely MTV exposure and prominent concert billings. Meanwhile, his former band mates trudged on the road with a new singer named Jason Gleason, known for a slightly more mature, less whiny vocal demeanor than his predecessor.

Though Further Seems Forever hasn't risen to the prominence level of their former front man, they've been far from overlooked on the mainstream touring front, scoring spots with Something Corporate and the Get Up Kids, just to name a few. They also landed songs on some coveted compilations such as Weezer Tribute (covering "Say It Ain't So") and Pop Goes Punk (the platform for their parody of N'Sync's "Bye, Bye, Bye").

Though they still played Christian festivals and found their way onto spiritually centered radio stations, it was apparent that, like Carrabba and his new company, Further Seems Forever was also striving for crossover status. As it stands right now, members maintain the following philosophy when it comes to the interplay of their faith with the music: "Well, everyone in FSF is a Christian, but we don't call ourselves a Christian band," they posted on their official website. "We do this because we love it. It is not a ministry for us. Our faith is our relationship with God on an individual level, and if we feel led to share that we will … we simply love to play music and love God."

Bearing those comments in mind, don't expect to find any blatant examples of the band's spiritual convictions on their How to Start a Fire. But look to their lyrical evasiveness as a platform that may eventually curb listener conversations in that direction. Certainly references to grace, battling pride, and living with integrity are reputable causes to cover within their recently recorded repertoire. Like fellow modern rockers Chevelle and The Juliana Theory, Further Seems Forever members need not justify their individual faith walks. Instead, they let their song structuring and artistic liberty do the talking.

How to Start a Fire is a fitting follow-up that presents the band in a tighter, more cohesive environment. Such qualities are initially displayed throughout the title cut. "The Sound" also funnels through a sequence of alerting guitar crackles and a singing style filled with urgent distress, while a melodic focus takes center spotlight. Other menacing anthems include the pensive "Against My Better Judgment" and the band's thoroughly soul-searched stance on egotism called "Pride War."

Though first hinted at on the last album, Further Seems Forever also implements sonic solidarity in several less abrasive settings on How to Start a Fire, starting with the delicate acoustic set up of "Oh Legendary" and the alternative blues shuffle, "A Blank Page Empire." Then there's "I Am," known for its inferred storyline that resounds with a questioning quality of a relationship on the rocks, along the lines of The Juliana Theory's "For Evangeline." Jason's singing is especially transfixing on lines like "I am one step closer for you / And please tell me when you're through / Cause I may not be through with you / Your loss to sustain / And I will remain." Such gut- wrenching groans are later suppressed through the placid distortion of "Instrumental" (misleadingly titled since it actually has vocals), bringing the album to a conclusion on a pied plateau.

As appealing as How to Start a Fire is, like The Moon Is Down, it runs just over a skimpy 35 minutes, bordering in between EP and the shorter side of full-length status. My only words of wisdom to new fans of the emo genre (especially of bands from the Christian community) are to instead consider trying out Denison Marrs's Then Is the New Now or The Juliana Theory's Emotion is Dead. You'll get much more for your money. That detracting quality isn't enough to disjoint the project's overall unity and the band's performance precision, nor should it hinder close followers in their decision to pick up the disc. In fact, if the band continues developing at this pace, I'm quite certain many more listeners will be converted to fervent fans, perhaps even affronting Further Seems Forever with a longevity status that many in their genre lack.