I have to admit, I really couldn't figure this one out at first.
Four years after releasing their Fat Wreck album Dancing for Decadence, the Sainte Catherines returned with a slightly different lineup, and a very different sound compared to the previous record. It's a strange album to get around to, but I really do like it now.
Musically, the band has slowed the pace a bit. That's not necessarily a bad thing, even though at first many songs seem to sound alike and some don't really stand out.
After a few spins, however, I got to realize that the intent of the band band seems to have shifted along with the sonic changes: This is a much more personal album, one that is driven by its lyrics rather than the (quite satisfying) kicks in the face of gravelly punk presented by Dancing for Decadence.
The songs deal with a certain disillusion the band seems to have faced since the previous record. A disillusion towards their own band, the life they wanted out of it...and from what it seems like, the music business as a whole.
They have found a satisfaction in things they had probably not even thought of by the time 2006 came along: family, kids, marriage, and life at home. The attitude now is ''We don't need to make it. We tried. This is better.'. At times you wonder if there is a sense of denial in the lyrics, an overcompensation in them for things that did not work out as planned. It takes a lot for a band to write a record about (essentially) not wanting a life that contradicts–at times–the very idea of what they do.
The simplistic but effective approach that frontman Hugo Mudie takes on the song "No Friends", for instance, shows a vulnerability that was always present in his lyrics, but well-hidden behind the growl with which he used to sing. That growl is now completely gone, and he presents his current state of mind to us no holds barred.
If some songs on the album are unremarkable, others stand out as some of the best work the band has produced. ''BLR Vs. Cancer (Fuck Off Cancer Song)'', is, unlike its title, a hell of a catchy song–and the same can be said about the lead track ''We Used to Be in Love'', a song that also hints the band may have listened to the Gaslight Anthem a few times over. The Sainte Catherines don't shy away from poppier tendencies in the songwriting with this album. The influences seem clearer than before.
It's the honesty and heart-on-sleeve attitude that really make this album work. It's not about punk, pop, rock, Air Supply, Beethoven or whatever style you can name. They just really seemed to want to make something that reflected how they felt. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but ultimately it is what made me return to this album again and again, even though I didn't particularly dig it upon the first two or three spins.
One can't help but wonder what the future holds for them. Fire Works really seems to close a chapter, and seems to sum up this part in the band's life. As much as they talk about being satisfied with their current lives, there is such a clear passion and drive for the music on this album that we are left wondering where this is really taking them. You really do get the sense that they want more out of it than what they tell you.
I can sum it up this way: I listen to it often, and it's rare that I actually feel the need to dig deeper about an album–and Fire Works does that.