Album Review :
Search the City - A Fire So Big The Heavens Can See It

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Artist: Search the City
Album: A Fire So Big The Heavens Can See It
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Buy: Smartpunk/Amazon MP3
Review by the Headless Horseman.

1. Son of a Gun
2. To The Moon, For All I Care
3. Detroit Was Built On Secrets
4. Ambulance Chaser
5. Talk is Cheap and I’ve Got Expensive Taste
6. The Rescue
7. Bigger Scars Make Better Stories
8. The Streetlight Diaries
9. In This Scene You’re Just An Extra
10. Clocks and Time Pieces

Let’s talk about pop music. Why doesn’t the underground music scene like pop? This is the question Search the City begs. After first experiencing the band, I had them pegged as a relatively uninteresting pop-punk band, but then a more knowledgeable reader here set me straight, calling them a relatively uninteresting pop band. And that’s the best way to sum up this release. Search the City are a pop band.

What exactly does this entail? First of all, the music is interesting but not groundbreaking. Give Search the City credit, however: they are interesting. Make no mistake about this. Riffs like those on “Talk is Cheap and I’ve Got Expensive Taste” and some of the other cuts here are the types that should have been present on the latest In Flames CD in abundance (and sadly were lacking). There’s plenty of 2/4 and even some cut time. “Clocks and Time Pieces” opens with a breakdown. There’s nothing that will amaze you or even surprise you, but it will keep you on your toes a bit. Is this something you can get into? Well, if Fugazi and Between the Buried and Me are your favorite bands, no. Probably not. But if you don’t hold every band to those kinds of platonic standards, then you might find Search the City pretty cool. They mix things up enough that, for the genre, their music is quite solid.

If you are a relative pop music connoisseur, your first thought upon reading the first paragraph was probably “How are the hooks?”. Well, the hooks are great. Don’t worry about this for a second. “Ambulance Chaser,” “The Rescue,” “Son of a Gun,” and basically all of the songs here will reside in your head for days. These are songs that are fun to sing at the top of your lungs. They’re fun to play in the summer (or really any month you fancy) with the windows down. And let’s face it: this is what makes pop music. Can we craft a fun song that makes you want to sing along? That’s the question. Search the City almost always deliver. Admittedly, occasionally the hooks desert them, and the results are mediocre and forgettable at best and simply undesirable at worst. I don’t ever want to listen to “To The Moon, For All I Care” again. It just kills the CD’s rhythm. But almost all of A Fire So Big The Heavens Can See It delivers on this count. Is this something you can get into? It should be.

How are the lyrics? Generally a bit sophomoric, with a fair few too many relying on turns of phrase and slices of pseudo-irony, but with a few cool metaphors (“Ambulance Chaser”). Is this something you can get into? Well, the hooks are probably good enough that the lyrics won’t get in the way, and sometimes they’ll help make the song too (“The Rescue,” “The Streetlight Diaries”). This is a major opportunity for growth, but it hardly ruins the experience.

Let’s talk about pop music. Most people really like it. It’s easy to love. Some people think it trivializes musical skill in general. That is their right. But a word of advice to these people: if you dislike everything about the current pop and pop-punk scenes, or if you insist on liking such bands almost only as “guilty pleasures,” then don’t write off Search the City as “generic” or “forgettable.” You’re stuck in your own little world, in which all that matters is how often bands can make up a new time signature or how fast they can play a solo. You can’t understand what a band like Search the City does, and you probably don’t want to. This is your right. But don’t talk about what you don’t understand. I grant you both that technical proficiency, profound lyrics, and musical innovation are all to be commended and that Search the City (in varying degrees) lacks all of these. But pop music is founded on different principles, namely, that memorable, catchy, and enjoyable vocal hooks and musical sections that allow the listener to sympathize with the lyrical standpoint, to deal with their own emotions, and to dance and sing like crazy are the main goal. And believe it or not, Search the City improve upon nearly all of their peers in this category. They really are that good at what they do.

Is this something you can get into? If you recognize the brilliance in the world’s Bleed Americans as well as its Blackwater Parks, then assuredly so.

Rating: 8/10
Standout Tracks: “Ambulance Chaser,” “Talk is Cheap…,” “The Rescue,” “In This Scene You’re Just An Extra”
RIYL: Jimmy Eat World, Run Kid Run, Anberlin, Acceptance, Number One Gun, Fall Out Boy, Capital Lights