Fireworks Higher Lonely Power
As the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2023, Detroit-based rock band, Fireworks, surprise released Higher Lonely Power, their highly anticipated first record in nine years. Following a 2014-2019 hiatus, it is the band’s fourth studio album after 2014’s Oh, Common Life and marks a notable shift in Fireworks’ earlier pop-punk stylings while still staying true to their ethos of making music that is rooted in the complexity of being alive. Refreshingly unpredictable yet strikingly cohesive, Higher Lonely Power marks a profound new chapter for the band as they consider their past, present, and future.
With the help of orchestral arrangements from Adam Mercer and backing vocals from Steven Branstrom and Ali Mosshart on several tracks, Higher Lonely Power is Fireworks’ most diverse and ambitious LP yet. Spanning twelve songs in just over 43 minutes, the band generously explores topics of religious fundamentalism, self-sacrifice, and mortality against a wide range of instrumental backdrops, including synth and string sections. From the bracing post-hardcore opener of “God Approved Insurance Plan” to the contemplative closer of “How Did It Used to Be So Easy?,” every track on the record manages to hold its own while simultaneously bringing Higher Lonely together.
Although their 2019 single “Demitasse” was left off of the record, the ethereal track set the stage for the spiritually distressed motif and evolved sound that their latest music is rooted in. Fireworks are well aware that a lot has changed since their last release and the album brilliantly encapsulates how the band have evolved with searing insight in relation to their place in the world.
Fireworks (photo by Leah Castile)
Spiritual, professional, and personal disenfranchisement are all substantial hallmarks of Higher Lonely Power. “Megachurch” brilliantly references the demands and hypocrisy of evangelical institutions while also taking a jab at the deep-rooted homophobia of those establishments. “Funeral Plant” considers how the experience of grief can result in dramatically different existential paths. “Woods II” explores complicated feelings about starting a band after high school and the sacrifices that had to be made to keep Fireworks afloat.
By far the most haunting song on the album is “Blood in the Milk,” a remarkable track where the band reflects on their trajectory and how their view on mortality has transformed. The track alludes to singer David Mackinder and guitarist Chris Mojan’s days of undergoing medical tests for money with references to being poked with needles and sleeping on the floors of hotel rooms, which they spoke about in a recent Stereogum interview. Beyond that, it reveals the lengths the band went to to keep themselves alive in a world that severely disparages working artists. With “Blood in the milk and pesticides on the honey/Woke up afraid to die when we used to think it was funny” as the song’s chorus, Fireworks use their ingenious poetic insight to express just how much they’ve changed. Featuring a mix of synth and rock instrumentation with a brilliant build-up of emotion, it is easily one of the best songs Fireworks have ever written.
Whether it’s coming to terms with an existential crisis or realizing that some things just shouldn’t stay the same, Fireworks have proven that getting wiser with age often means letting go. The sky is truly the limit for these Detroit Bad Boys and Higher Lonely Power has certainly secured a spot as one of my favorite releases of 2023.
Higher Lonely Power is out now via Funeral Plant Collective and available on all major streaming platforms.