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Amusement Parks on Fire (Wednesday, June 1st, 2005, First Avenue, Minneapolis)
Amusement Parks on Fire at the Zodiac in Oxford June 5th, 2004 - Photo c. Ben Sutton

By David de Young

6 weeks ago a publicist in New York sent me the debut eponymously-titled album by Nottingham, England’s Amusement Parks on Fire. It sat in my “listen to” stack, for over a week, finally making it into my CD player about 3 a.m. one Saturday night after bar. In the state I was in, I could easily have passed out on the couch. But instead, the next 45 minutes were vividly dreamy and reflective. By the time the disc ended I swear I felt about 20 years younger.

Amusement Parks on Fire is an album far greater than the sum of its parts that must be absorbed as a whole. The tracks blend together without breaks, and that’s not to say the songs are indistinct -- the hooks are there and each song is immediately recognizable after a few listens. The album is much like a painting where the songs represent elements of light, color and texture. Because of the psychological level on which it works, it’s very easy to like but almost impossible to put your put your finger on exactly why.

So I’d found myself a new favorite band while they were still little known in the US. Amusement Park's on Fire's album, though released last summer on Invada records in the UK was only released stateside Tuesday (Reincarnate Music, May 31st, 2005.)

Two words often thrown around to describe this band's sound are “ethereal” and “incredibly loud.” APOF remind you (lest you forget) that feedback can be one of the most beautiful instruments in rock and roll. My subsequent listens to the disc yielded associations with early The Church, Sonic Youth, Ride, Pixies and a miscellany of so-called “art-rock” bands of the past twenty years. I privately raved, playing the disk for captive audiences in my home and car and even threatened to burn copies for other writers on my staff. If other people are behaving as giddily as I am (which I suspect they are), this is exactly the kind of stuff that turns unknown bands into sensations in relatively short periods of time.

Wednesday night, Amusement Parks on Fire opened for the super-hyped Kaiser Chiefs at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Starting the set with “Venus in Cancer,” singer Michael Feerick, with his frazzled bleached-blonde hair seemingly aglow in the stage lights, looked as if he’d just stepped off the cover of an early Echo and the Bunnymen album. (HowWasTheShow writer, Maura McAndrew– who covers the rest of this night’s show here -- suggested Michael looked like Thom Yorke from the Pablo Honey days.)

The band delivered an inviting set, drawing in even the skeptical folks on the periphery of the club who had clearly come to see the better known bands on the bill. Though they didn’t exactly play the album straight through, they re-created a kind of live facsimile of it, complete with reprises and haunting instrumental interludes, melding songs together to create a cohesive whole much like the album.

Early on I imagined they might play the whole set without addressing the audience at all (as Jason "Spaceman" Pierce of Spiritualized had done two years before on that very stage.) But the stuck up and distant attitude of so-called ”shoe-gazing” bands is not Amusement Parks on Fire’s style. Feerick himself confirmed this in an interview with Mary Lucia on 89.3 “The Current” (KCMP) the following day, saying “shoe-gazing” is one description of his band he doesn’t like. This may be part of the reason why Amusement Parks on Fire doesn’t come off as the slightest bit pretentious on stage. Instead you see only the band’s enjoyment as the melodic, rhythmic, screaming guitars build a wall of sound you can almost see.

The only glitch of the night came from a freaked out bass drum mic, which first over modulated then cut out entirely for a minute or so. To their credit the band kept it going perfectly. The crowd continued to grow and more people crowded up to the stage, and I’m sure the band picked up many new fans tonight.

After the set, Feerick literally ran to the merch booth, where I caught up with him and had a chance to chat a bit about what’s coming up. The band has been booked for the popular Reading and Leeds Festivals this August back in England. Then they’ll be back in the States in September for the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.

David de Young is

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