Saturday, October 8, 2011

This Fire Burns Out

The Good: Lyrics, Passion, Voice
The Bad: Loses edge, Musically unimaginative
The Basics: Don't buy This Fire, as the appeal wanes quickly over time; get it out of the library or borrow a friend's copy!

I actually purchased This Fire a few years back after I had borrowed a friend's copy and listened to it for a full week. So, initially there was enough there to make me want it at one point. I had been quite excited about Paula Cole and This Fire for some time.

The initial edge to Paula Cole's This Fire is in the sharp lyrics. That is, she's saying things no one else says and she sings them well. Cole uses daring lyrics that could be construed as offensive as she says it like she sees it. For example, in a song about an abusive relationship, she uses two profanities in the opening two lines. In fact, one of the things that still holds up is that Cole can write. Her lyrics tackle the usual love and loss, but with poetic references rare in pop-rock music these days. Songs like "Mississippi" and "Nietzche's Eyes" initially catch the listener off guard with their power and originality.

The problem is, that's one of the few things that the album has going for it and it doesn't stand up over time. "Carmen" and "I Don't Want To Wait" remain lyrically strong, but even the intelligently written "Nietzche's Eyes" becomes pedantic and droll quickly. "Throwing Stones" (which uses much anger and profanity) and "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone," are initial draws that become repetitive sounding and thematically the album is pretty obsessive. This is female stalker music.

While Cole sings well generally, her voice sounds scratchy on "Mississippi" and her duet on "hush, hush, hush" is a disappointment. Cole's lyrics are fine, but their importance loses relevance and it doesn't take long for the shock value to wear off and for the owner to discover this c.d. has been sitting on the shelf for over a year without listening to it.

While her voice is fine, her musical accompaniment is less than outstanding. Cole primarily uses the piano, but her range on the instrument seems more limited than others, like Fiona Apple. Her greatest musical variations between songs seems to be in the percussion section and ultimately, it adds to the sense of "been there, heard that" that This Fire suffers from upon repeated listenings.

The album is pretty much about anger and, like anger, makes the piece difficult to sustain long term. The pieces that aren't about angst or anger (like "Carmen" and "Me") outlast the rest of the album by quite a bit. So, in the end, this piece that originally seemed very edgy becomes a disc that we can easily sacrifice after we've burned a track or two off onto a mix.

The strongest track is "Carmen" and the weakest link is the noisy, lyrically inferior "Road to Dead" which belongs on the same list as Oasis' "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is" and Red Hot Chili Peppers' "I Like Dirt."

For other music reviews by female artists, please visit my reviews of:
Bomb In A Birdcage - A Fine Frenzy
21 - Adele
Tidal - Fiona Apple


For other music reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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