Hey Mercedes – Everynight Fire Works

Hey Mercedes
Everynight Fire Works

Emo. I can’t deny that’s a word that makes me cringe. Not that I’m one of those cooler-than-thou indie hipsters who bought up every Get Up Kids and Promise Ring album and is now turning on the genre as it falls out of favor in some circles. I just never really liked the stuff. It may be stereotypical, but most of it just sounds like warmed up Husker Du to me (and I didn’t really like Husker Du that much, either). For some of us non-emo-loving music fans, music serves the function of providing escapism, in which case emo is a problematic solution. Being a young adult with the normal concerns of other young adults, I don’t really like to hear those other young adults present the details of their lives for me to dissect. That doesn’t help me escape my life, just confirms that there are others out there like me. And I don’t want to dissect the lives of people like me. From listening to Everynight Fire Works, I think the guys in Hey Mercedes may be a little too much like me.
By now everybody knows the story of Hey Mercedes, how they picked up the shattered pieces from Braid to form their own brand of progressive emo-based rock and earn accolades from the standard-bearers of the genre. Heck, they’ve even got J. Robbins producing their work, so obviously they’re the real deal. And I’m afraid I kind of like them, too. Sure, they hold a little too close to everything that I don’t like about emo. The textures are all similar, the verse is almost awkwardly confessional, and the songs can just wear a lazy kid out, running through highly energetic arrangements of hard-charging guitars and propulsive drumming. Still, as much as I hate to admit it, the songs are extremely solid.
As Bob Nanna’s soft, angsty croon brings to mind the Cure’s Robert Smith, the paeans to youthful insecurity sounds nothing but sincerely rendered. The band is commendably tight, kicking through a set of rhythmically diverse songs at nearly dangerous speeds. Anthemic choruses abound, from the complex “The Frowning of a Lifetime” to the gliding “Que Shiraz.” Everything is obviously in its right place, right down the line – guitars, drums, vocals, harmonies. In short, I can understand how someone could really like them, but I’ll probably never truly grasp how this variety of music could make someone shake with tremors of recognition.
To be honest, having been scared away early on in the game, my palette for emo probably never fully matured. But from what I’ve seen, it seems to be a genre where many of the bands only differ from each other by slight degrees, much like other famously dogmatic forms like bluegrass. Still, Hey Mercedes seem to be about a shade and a half better than most emo bands I’ve heard. The guitars thrash and drums rampage, but they seem to do it more or less the same way on every track. On a song-by-song basis, though, the majority of these tracks, however much they seem to resemble each other, are memorable. The big soaring choruses of “Our Weekend Starts on Wednesday” and the rising and falling intensity of “Haven’t Been This Happy” rattle and cruise at top speed. Ultimately, though, the themes of infatuation and frustration might not resonate with someone who isn’t particularly interested in reliving them with their free time.
Admittedly, Hey Mercedes are substantially better than I expected. But I wasn’t expecting much, as I’ve already been convinced the best emo probably isn’t going to win me over. Banjo picking coal miners, acid-fried experimental rockers, obsessive-compulsive sound sculptors – those are people who can provide me an escape route from the drudgery of everyday life. These guys just hold a mirror up to me, and even if I don’t always like what I see, I can’t deny the reflections look a lot like me. But I don’t like to look at myself in the mirror too much. I’d much rather look at someone else and forget about myself. And while the guys in Hey Mercedes look a little too much like me, I can’t deny this is probably as good of an emo album as I’ve heard in some time. Oh well, whatever gets you through the night.