The Firebird Band – The Setting Sun and its Satellites

The Firebird Band
The Setting Sun and its Satellites

Is it really important to know that someone in this band was an ex-member of one of your favorite bands? After all, don’t we all get tired of hearing ex-members of bands like Mineral and Texas is the Reason? But, then again, comparisons are always going to be made, and sometimes it’s nice to follow your favorite musicians. That being said, you probably already know that
Chris Broach, former guitarist/vocalist for the seminal band Braid, is now on his own, and he has assembled a band (that also features Ghosts and Vodka member Erik Bocek on bass) that will likely, at least for Broach, put Braid to rest. Because, frankly, this isn’t Braid. Braid is dead, and we all grieve. But Broach has moved on, and he’s taking his style of rock in a new direction. Sure, his vocals are going to sound familiar, mixed to the front and shouted/sung/spoken in his somewhat deep monotone. The guitars still kick in madly, and the rhythm is often all over the place. But a lot of the hooks of recent Braid aren’t here, replaced by more of an emphasis on guitar-driven rock. And The Firebird Band uses keyboards and drum machines as a main instrument, something that does, I admit, take a bit of getting used to before it sounds perfectly suitable for these songs.
The title track starts off with a repetitive rhythm and some wailing guitar. Broach’s odd sung/spoken vocals fit here perfectly amongst the guitar blares and the keyboard hints, all encompassed by that rhythm. This can’t be said to be a Braid song by any means, but it’s probably one of the most similar tracks here. “Nothing Not Dance Party” has a more steady, pounding rhythm, some crazy bass lines, and Broach showing the power he can sing with. “City” slows things down, with an almost jazzy rhythm and a moody, bass-heavy feel that probably would have reminded me of PJ Harvey even if Broach didn’t sing, “she’s coming up mansize.” And it leads nicely into the more upbeat, beat-heavy “New Year” (for some reason not listed on the back of the album), which uses the background keyboard effects nicely but is really driven by some driving guitar and drums. “Forever” is a 6-minute song that kind of blows my mind, it flows so well and uses some sonic guitar work, drum machine beats, and synthesizers. And when Broach comes in, singing all swanky, I can’t help but think of The Make Up, which was a comparison I didn’t expect to make on this album. “The City and Driving” uses repetition and catchy lyrics in a Braid-like melodic post-hardcore way, comfortable yet original. “Kiss Yourself” starts with a killer bass line and riots out of the gates, catchy and fun and just melodic enough, with Broach shouting out the lyrics (he sings best here) and plenty of synthesizers popping up. After a quiet, oddly sweet number (and several empty tracks – when will rock stars stop thinking this is cute), you get an electronic, almost loungy Christmas song that’s the perfect ending.
To be honest, The Firebird Band isn’t a new, post-Braid project. Broach was working on this project since 1997, and since the demise of Braid, he’s put a new focus on it. Thus it doesn’t have the feel of a quick post-breakup release. Instead, Broach has clearly shown his focus on powerful, guitar-driven rock songs, keyboard noises, and moody post-emo grind. This is some pretty cool stuff, making me wonder how much of an input Broach had into the more recent Braid albums and how much he should have.