CD Review: The On Fires — Betrayer; Playing Smith’s Olde Bar with Vonnegutt, March 26

The On Fires

By Al Kaufman

The On Fires began life in Australia in 2003 as Asleep in the Park. Since that time, due mostly to their high-energy live shows, they have attained a large following in the land of Oz. They have since undergone a name change and are ready to take on the States. They come out full-force on the opening track of Betrayer, “Coming Home.” It is here that the duo of Marty Kennoff and Max Harman fully display their punk attitude, but with a penchant for surf guitars and just a touch of the B-52s’ party mentality. This is a band that is not against mixing their musical genres. If you need more convincing, on track two, “Hangin’ With the Living,” they dabble in ’60s psychedelia, but keep one foot firmly entrenched in ’90s power pop.

Harman’s keyboards, which she tends to play like a guitar, bounce and pop from techno to rockabilly throughout the album, and Kennoff never met a guitar style that he didn’t like, nor couldn’t master. The album loses its way a bit in the middle when the duo morph into a sort of Pink Floyd-lite, but they bounce out of it on “Arms Open,” a track with all the energy and stylings of some of the best Cowboy Mouth party music. They keep it upbeat the rest of the way, with mixed results. There are shouted out choruses, catchy hooks, and an abundance of energy. This is the type of music that gets played on the big roller coasters. It pumps you up, even if it not the most sophisticated stuff you ever heard. But these are songs that beg to be heard live, where the sweat flows as freely as the beer. This is party punk.

The On Fires play Smith’s Olde Bar with Vonnegutt on March 26.

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