Music Features

Selling The Drama Once Again: The Fire Theft Demos

How lucky can one freelance hack be? Scoring a copy of The Fire Theft demos approximately three months before its release date. For those of you outside of the indie circuit, the debut release from The Fire Theft marks the return of what was once called Sunny Day Real Estate.

Now if you've lived under a rock since 1993, SDRE was perhaps the sonic flagship for emotional rock and roll controlled chaos that most people (including scores of idiot music journalists and industry insiders) declared the, dare we say, emo sound. Sunny Day's Sub Pop debut Diary (the label 's all-time biggest seller behind Nirvana's Bleach) was chock full of beauty swirling in angst. The quiet-loud-quiet motif of a tight rhythm section combined with the often frightening shrieks and Jeff Buckley-meets -Bono vocal operatics of Jeremy Enigk brought the band out of the shadows of gloomy Seattle. But before the quartet could become a household name, Enigk went nuts and came out of the proverbial Christian closet.

Their second release LP2 (aka 'The Pink Album') was further evidence that Enigk was divulging demons in a truly emotionally challenged manner, and to this day indie dorks like myself refuse to remove it from the 5-disc changer. After a 3-year hiatus Sunny Day returned in 1998 with the majestic How it Feels to be Something On, the wide open sounds capes allowed Enigk's unique voice to shine. A highly successful tour followed, and two years later The Rising Tide was released and proved to be the band's final release under the Sunny Day moniker. Perhaps the weakest of the band's four albums, The Rising Tide was even more wide-open musically, more delicate and less jagged, and although critics scoffed at the album, another successful tour followed.

Now, after months deliberating and searching for a record label (what a goddamn shame) The Fire Theft have reportedly inked a deal with DreamWorks, with a full-length slated for June. The band is currently on a sold-out select city tour with ex-Knapsack NoCal rockers The Jealous Sound (who will release the follow-up to their acclaimed EP this summer on Better Looking Records) opening up. A friend in the biz scored a copy of The Fire Theft demos, and lemme say the shit is damn near amazing.

Original SDRE drummer Will Goldsmith (who played briefly with the Foo Fighters before Dave Grohl re-recorded his drum tracks on The Colour and the Shape) and current Foo bassist Nate Mendel, along with Enigk, who has never sounded better. No, the band has not turned back the clock with sludgy chords and horrific shards of torment, rather a clean, open-air sound that gets better upon each listen.

Jeremy Enigk seems settled and more focused than ever, and his patented discombobulated lyrics have been replaced with a simpler, lovelorn maturity that we've seen from other mid-90's indie icons (Mineral--Gloria Record, Archers of Loaf--Crooked Fingers, etc.). "Well you can grab hold of love if you want it" Enigk plaintively declares on It's Over. And it's the Ghost of Buckley past on the gorgeous Oceans Apart as Enigk's satiated falsetto floats along to Goldsmith's trademark balls-out hammering. "We just couldn't get it right" Enigk mutters in Waste Time, a catchy love song that comes dangerously close to a Journey prom song, and hell yes that's a good thing, and Houses is a sparse lullaby that'll have Chris Carraba waiting backstage for an autograph.

But don't get it twisted, The Fire Theft will still kick your ass sonically like Enigk and Co. did a decade ago, and chances are their debut will be better than anything you've bought or burned in the past three years.