The Koala Fires Sleep Tight Lucky Grills [EP]

[Self-Released; 2009]

Styles:  pop-post-punk
Others: Mission of Burma meets millennial Weezer

Cincinnati: home of Skyline Chili, Proctor & Gamble, and [the most dangerous neighborhood in America->]. Well, you can add to that list power-pop four-piece The Koala Fires. Their debut EP, Sleep Tight Lucky Grills, hinges on sharp bursts of youthful guitar rock and post-Pixies song dynamics. It's a sunny, energetic record, charmingly reflective of their pleasant and (Over the Rhine aside) homey little Midwestern city of origin.

The Koala Fires have all the hallmarks of good pop songwriting nailed down: infectious hooks, well-placed melodic shifts, and, perhaps best of all, songs that are exactly the length they need to be. Of the three tracks, only one just barely crests above three minutes. This keeps the composition tight and doesn't allow the listener's attention to wander. Alas, if only more of their peers would listen and take notes.

Lucky Grills opens on its strongest footing. With its angular riffing and call-and-response verses, “The Friendly Ghost” sounds like it would have felt right at home on the next Mission of Burma album. “Thunder Bugs” snatches the opening from The Pixies' “Something Against You,” but eschews Black Francis-style raging for unassuming catchiness and some very timely chord changes. They conclude their set, hearts-on-sleeves, with “Voyager Two,” a track that recalls some of the more palatable offerings from Weezer's Green Album. Their influences are obvious, but the songs themselves are so lean and ebullient, it's easy to forgive them.

If there's one aspect the band may still need to work on, it's finding the appropriate energy for the vocals. Singer Matt Mooney's voice is well-suited to The Koala Fires' brand of indie punk, but at times (and it is a true rarity for me to say this), he oversells his portion, pushing his voice a little bit beyond his comfortable range. Nevertheless, the band has a manifest talent for crafting memorable riffs. One hopes that future releases will find The Koala Fires further establishing their own voice while still maintaining the tunefulness and concision that makes Sleep Tight Lucky Grills such a genuinely fun listen.

1. The Friendly Ghost
2. Thunder Bugs
3. Voyager Two

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