The Firebird Band – Archives

Somehow, while touring with Braid, a band that was consistently getting better and more famous, Chris Broach managed to keep going a side project with his brother, Riley, and some friends. Called The Firebird Suite, the band recorded 11 songs with Hum’s Matt Talbott in 1997 as well as a long out-of-print 7”. The Firebird Project recorded a six-song EP, all of which are included here, before Braid’s unfortunate break-up in 1999. Following that break-up, Broach decided to make the effort a full-time gig, and with some member shifting, The Firebird Band was born. That band released one album so far, The Setting Sun and its Satellites, and one track is included here as an out-take from those sessions.

The members of the various Firebird projects have previously played in or gone on to play with such bands as Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Lapse, Runner, I am the Earth Made for Man, and others. But they’ve all been undeniably driven by Chris Broach, with his unique voice and that kind of emo-esque post-hardcore melodicism, intricate rhythm, and stellar songwriting. There’s hints of everything from Braid-like rock to June of ’44 math to Fugazi rock and in-between. In short, although these songs were recorded years ago, they were recorded with care and talent, and even though they’re all out of print or previously unavailable, there’s not a single bad song out of the 18 tracks included.

The opening track, “Waiting for You to Come Back from Barcelona,” starts with some finely melodic guitar and bass before Broach’s trademark off-tune voice comes, sung/shouted in classic Braid style. This track and the stellar “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” were from the Firebird Suite’s un-released New York 7”, with re-recorded vocals and re-mastering by Broach.

Staying with the Suite, “Dance in France” is fast-paced with screamed vocals and heavy on the low-end, while “Waltz of Flowers” shows off a very un-Braid-like moodiness, complete with chilling cello. There’s more melodicism than expected on “September” and more Pixies-esque pop on “Cannonball.” “A Picture You’d Hate to Miss” is quiet, even contemplative, while “Weather Forecasts and Storm Warnings” is oddly simultaneously mellow and dissonant.

The Firebird Project was a bit more moody, better produced, heavier on the bass, and with Broach’s vocals more in the fore. “Letter” is a fine rock song, with bits of Fugazi-like rock driving the song. The short “Russia” is more intense, driven by blazing guitars and moody rhythm, while “Leaving Barcelona” is more up-beat and catchy. “South Shore Drive” continues Braid’s tendency to sing about Chicago, and “The Fall of the West” goes back to the more math-rock arena.

Finally, the more recent track, “Violet,” shows how the Firebird Band evolved. At nearly seven minutes, this track flows nicely. It features a rolling guitar line and rhythm, some strings mixed in (I’m such a sucker for strings in rock music), and a more contemporary yet still vintage post-hardcore feel. An instrumental for a change, I keep waiting for Broach’s vocals, but the song flows nice enough as it is, building and fading and, while repetitive, never really losing my interest.

This is a lengthy release, but by no means is Archives merely intended for completists. In fact, it’s the first of three releases featuring the Firebird Band originally planned to be released this year. Chris Broach is a talented musician, as his work in the Firebird projects, Braid, and his more solo project L’Spaerow will contest. For those who miss the days of energetic, intricate post-hardcore, this release is definitely worth finding. I’ve enjoyed it repeatedly and only apologize for taking so long to write about it.