Get Off The Cross...
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Featuring members of Cop Shoot Cop, Jesus Lizard, Soul Coughing, Laughing Hyenas, and Eysian Fields
Full of dark, Old World rhythms, artful gypsy punk and giddy spy-jazz.
Firewater’s seminal debut predated the current multicultural music explosion by a good decade.
Later bands like Gogol Bordello and Beirut owe a heavy debt to Tod A and company’s early mash-ups of punk and klezmer, Russian folk melodies and middle-eastern instrumentation. Features Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard), Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), Yuval Gabay (Soul Coughing, Asian Dub Foundation). Full of dark, Old World rhythms, artful gypsy punk and giddy cloak and dagger spy-jazz.
Thanks in part to Tod A's immediately recognizable sing-speak-rasp, Firewater's debut follows along easily from the wreckage of Cop Shoot Cop. If the music is less self-consciously anti-rock rock and more late-night seedy nightclub meets gypsy hoe-down, the same sense of bitter snarling against a messed-up world reigns paramount. Swaggering right on in with the strutting kick of "Some Strange Reaction," the hilariously titled Get Off the Crossfinds Tod A rejuvenated, once again creating music out to steer away from the mainstream rather than slot into it. Yuval Gabay is his key collaborator here, his fluid playing as easily able to reference Latin jazz as it does klezmer and straight-up rock rhythms. It's the same skill Gabay brings to Soul Coughing. The range of participating musicians is a delight, with Doug Henderson's production and mixing deserving notice for how he makes everything leap from the speaker with maximum impact.
Overall, Firewater wins some understandable comparisons to Tom Waits' twisted cabaret work of the 1980s, but it's more a connection of general form instead of sound. Both Tod A and Waits clearly have an appreciation for all sorts of things, but Firewater's less murky and withdrawn, more ready to rock a party hard (just give a listen to "I am the Rain," actually one of the band's most straightforward songs, sonically). A lot of the songs here have similar general arrangements, but the energy and sheer fun of the songs help overcome the slight sameness, as does the occasional smoky lead vocal by Jennifer Charles. If nothing else, Tod A still has a great line in song titles -- "When I Burn This Place Down," "Snake Eyes and Boxcars," and "Mr. Cardiac" are all winners.