George Usher Group
Fire Garden Parasol http://www.tinymixtapes.comsites/default/files/arton5198_0.jpg

[Parasol; 2003]

Rating: 3/5 3 / 5 (0)

Styles: power pop, jangle pop
Others: Cotton Mather, Go-Betweens


http://media.tinymixtapes.com/


It’s a bad sign when a reviewer is struck more by an album’s production than by the music itself, but such is the case with George Usher Group’s latest opus, Fire Garden. Usher, formerly affiliated with both Beat Rodeo and the Bongos, has written a group of layered but tight pop nuggets. So it’s too bad the album was produced (by Usher himself, with Dennis Ambrose) as if it were lush, orchestral, almost anthemic. In the end, the melodies just aren’t expansive enough to fill the space around them, and the record, which could have been a pleasant enough dose of retro-pop, instead dissipates into the diffuse and muddy atmosphere created for it.

Fire Garden starts off well, with the searing “Are You Coming or Going?” And there are several other very good songs, among them “Too Busy Dreaming,” which does achieve the soaring sound for which the rest of the album strives; “She Doesn’t Even Know You’re Alive,” which has some old-fashioned charm; and “Spectacle,” which features the album’s best and most contained, melody. But there are plenty of missteps here too, such as “There Is No Sleep,” a weird mix of late-‘60s psychedelia and mid-‘70s prog rock (how could that have gone wrong?), and the series of unremarkable pieces that closes the album.

Lyrically, there are ups and downs, often within the same song. For example, contrast these two lines from the aforementioned “Spectacle”: “We don’t really care / We don’t give a damn / We don’t wanna be deep in love again, don’t you understand?” and “We only believe what we wanna hear when it isn’t said.”  The first provides a bitter contrast to the song’s cheerful tone; the second is meaningless blather. Like these lines, Fire Garden is an uneven affair: more up than down, but even after repeated listens it feels more like a missed opportunity than a fully-realized success.

1. Are You Coming or Going?
2. The Day Before I Found Her
3. Fade
4. The Lost Fields
5. Too Busy Dreaming
6. The Return of Your Loved Ones in Dreams
7. There Is No Sleep
8. Spectacle
9. Nowhere
10. See You Later, There’s the Door
11. She Doesn’t Even Know You’re Alive
12. New Lust
13. Dancing in Troy
14. When the Circle Closes
15. Daylight Comes

1. Are You Coming or Going?
2. The Day Before I Found Her
3. Fade
4. The Lost Fields
5. Too Busy Dreaming
6. The Return of Your Loved Ones in Dreams
7. There Is No Sleep
8. Spectacle
9. Nowhere
10. See You Later, There’s the Door
11. She Doesn’t Even Know You’re Alive
12. New Lust
13. Dancing in Troy
14. When the Circle Closes
15. Daylight Comes