Fire on Fire - The Orchard

Matthew Proctor |

A band of ragamuffins can certainly change.

Leaving behind their debut EP’s
awkwardness, Fire on Fire‘s proper full-length gallops and rambles through
somber shaded defiant declarations in a rural landscape haunted by sinister
potentialities. Imagine an East coast version of 16 Horsepower without the
rock guitars and the heavy-handed religious distractions. Oddly fitting, the
five piece group holds a similar DNA burden as 1960’s mystic folkies

Fire on Fire’s origins are traced back to the messy strangeness of an
anything goes, throw the kitchen sink in there weirdness of Cerberus Shoals.
The group‘s alchemy pf electrified hazy edges to absolutely deft masters of
folk instrumentation is nothing short of admirable. Production and mixing
suggest a warm rustic gathering around an old hearth. Banjo often takes the
lead and every member shares lead vocals at some point. Song structures
easily follow the standard verse/chorus dynamic, but here the chorus soars
with dense group harmonies. Such a typical approach often would be boring,
yet Fire on Fire reveal to be strong songwriters and inventively simple

The good songs are many in number here. “Assanine Race” warbles effectively
with cynical lyrics describing keeping up with Mr. Jones and the Devil.
“Flordinese”’s musicality suggests regality through simplified baroque
tones. Lyrics like “you can give them the axe/ or give them the axe/ but it
wont’ stop the rain/ it won’t stop the rain” have the feel of Old Testament
psalms. Harnessing lyrical language into enigmatic aphorism-like phrasing
certainly serves as the album’s bedrock.

The title song stomps along infectiously with a minor bone-rattling banjo.
Vocals bordering upon crooning emerge above the creaking wheezing of a
squeeze box. The ending chorus makes one feel uneasy with powerful eeriness.
In unison as if praying against malefic apparitions, they sing “May we rise
without vain glory /May we rise all without spleen/ May we rise not sick
with worry/ As butterflies from the orchard green.” Sharp, juxtaposing
lyricism transposes one to 16th century British Broadsides littered with
pagan fragments while also conjuring Charles Baudelaire’s convoluted, grim,
poetic romanticism.

The Orchard is not without its weakness. “Fight Song” holds great musical
dynamics yet the lush group harmonizing this far into the album can be
grating. Also, the whiny warbling songbird beginning “Grin” illuminates the
essence of annoyance.

Unfortunately, a bottomless plethora of ragged, gothic-tinged string bands
haunt the American landscape today. On the other hand, Fire on Fire
inhabiting the genre is only a reference point as the five-piece transcend
their peers by their authoritative emotional execution. The group’s song
craft roams sincere without trying to convince anyone through self-conscious
bullshit. In other words, Fire on Fire executes an aesthetically coherent
song bag that holds out as a levy against an awful metaphysical river
breaking the banks and chock full of sinister specters. The Orchard is a
solid, emotionally introspective album.