Wednesday, 21 July 2010

EP Review: Bonfire Nights - Self Titled [2010]

Once upon a time some English guy attempted to blow up Westminister. The years, decades and centuries following this nefarious scheme, people throughout the world have celebrated this event ostensibly to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, despite it being more likely that they generally seem to enjoy ‘blowing shit up’. While bonfire night was banned here in Australia in the 70s, locals Ruth Nitkiewicz and Steve Forster have appropriated the name for their latest musical endeavour, presumably with the objective of setting off some fireworks of their own.

Questionable metaphors aside, Bonfire Nights self titled EP is the product of an ongoing collaboration between the couple. It would be incorrect for the reader to assume this is an opportunistic attempt to tap into the ‘girl / boy’ duo trend. The genealogy of Bonfire Nights is rich enough to dispel notions that this is simply another iteration of the seemingly fashionable ‘girl/boy make indie music’ dynamic, a common trope in today’s indie pop landscape (Sleigh Bells, I’m looking at you).

So what does the EP tell us about the duo's creative journey? Well, it is obvious that Bonfire Nights have produced an accessible yet personal record. A cursory glance at the track listing hints at seemingly existential questions. ‘Own Worst Enemy’, drawing parallels to the sounds of BRMC and The Kills, is cautionary rock anecdote that indulges in the odd flange-tinged guitar solo (the flange is back in business baby!). Further investigation of the EP reveals themes of personal reflection, such as in the ballad ‘Leave Yourself Open’ (‘there ain't no sense in choice you make/ leave yourself open / when the feelings real but the words are fake / say I'm not broken’).

Despite only having two musicians on the roster (Ok, sometimes three), Bonfire Nights show a startling array of diversity over five tracks. Standout 'We Don't Care', embracing a more pop aesthetic, is designed to make ones feet shuffle. 'Don't Have to Be Here' builds from a simple guitar and vocal line into a song of operatic dimensions. The emphasis seems to be on creating a tapestry of contrasting melodies and the song is assisted by some great, yet indistinguishable, backing vocals from Ruth.

The closing song, an interesting take on the Undertones signature tune 'Teenage Kicks', continues the ideal of introspection that seems to draw the EP together. Ruth and Steve wind back the intensity of the original song, their voices whispering the famous lyrics over a simple fingerpicked guitar lick. My guess is that fans of the original song might be divided on Bonfire Nights version, but it is interesting enough to warrant some attention.

While obvious comparisons will be made to other girl/boy groups such as the White Stripes, the Ravonettes and the aforementioned (The) Kills, Bonfire Nights are not simply reproductions of these famous duos. Instead, as this EP shows, Bonfire Nights is defined by experimentation with the indie rock genre, that not only the fulfils personal goals, but is palatable to the general public.

Bonfire Nights launch the EP this Friday at the Troubadour. Tickets available from Oztix. Supports are Teenage Wolves and Blonde on Blonde.

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