Higher Lonely Power wasn’t originally planned to be released on New Year’s Day of 2023, but if you’re in a band called Fireworks, New Year’s is as good a day as any.
The Detroit rockers possess an insatiable sense of humor, evident in the album’s lyrics, or perhaps via a song titled “Jerking Off the Sky”. Before all that, though, Higher Lonely Power bursts forth with “God Approved Insurance Plan”, a ninety-seven second intro heavy and chaotic enough to remind you that Fear Before is still inactive. Left in the rubble are eleven songs oscillating between singalongs, foot-stomping, and just sitting around.
The album is an enigma, then. Starting with a post-hardcore fever dream only to devolve into either gamma ray energy or underwhelming Americana certainly checks the boxes of identity crisis. There’s nigh-palpable radiation, like the punk nature of “Veins in David’s Hand” speeding to its conclusion with some of the more urgent vocals to be found. This is followed by a drab affair of synths and reverb laden guitars searching for a destination. When the energy is lacking, it’s quite noticeable by contrast.
At times there is the unfortunate abandonment of some of those more fun moments. “How Did It Used to Be So Easy” is too straightforward for its own good. It’s bound to be your mom’s favorite rock song. But the energy contrast can happen within a single song. This is a shame, “Machines Kept You Alive” has a lovely first half of ambience and piano underneath a soothing vocal performance only to be interrupted by a cacophonous breakbeat. Politely, it’s a curious choice.
Luckily, there is more grace to be found. The emotional crescendo ending “Megachurch” is a repetitious beauty of layering.
Retro synths, shoegazey guitars, strings and piano; there are plenty of ideas, plenty of songs, plenty of moods. The listener has the task of wrestling with whether it’s a problem. I sometimes struggle with the importance of cohesion, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all question. Higher Lonely Power is at severe risk of suffering from the issue.