Gazpacho has been one of my favorite bands for a few years now. Most of my favorite bands took some time to grow on me, but this band was instant love. I had never heard a band that was simultaneously haunting and beautiful, menacing and calm. Like a Cheshire cat, floating above the earth with a knowing and mischievous grin, Gazpacho tells tales that remind us of how beautiful and crazy we all are with dense, philosophical, powerful parables. And with their new album, Fireworker, they pull from almost every chapter of their discography to create one of the most brilliant and timely albums of 2020.
The central theme of Fireworker is one that has been present in Gazpacho’s music previously, but is now fully examined on its own. According to the band, the album’s theme is centered around the idea “that humanity has always been—and always will be—controlled by an ageless, infallible, and omniscient creature determined to propagate at any cost.” As we continue on in a world that is gripped by creeping fascism, a global pandemic, climate worries, and more, the examination of this more animalistic part of our being- the instinctual side, the lizard brain, the id, the space cowboy, the “fireworker”- seems incredibly timely, especially when one considers how much our subconscious, instinctual side drives our thinking, our actions, and our responses to real or perceived threats.
The album has 5 tracks, but is meant to be listened to as a single piece of music, much like their album Night. Granted, there are a lot of albums that are best appreciated all at once, but I think in this case, it’s because the album is best viewed as a series of short tracks that all blend together, like movements in a symphony. There are repeating lyrics, motifs, and themes that one catches more easily if the listener puts in the time to hear it from start to finish. It’s worth it to find the time to dedicate to this album, with your nicest pair of headphones and your preferred musical medium. Like any philosophically and musically dense piece of music, Fireworker reveals its brilliance more and more with each careful listen.
Rather than easing you in with a short, palatable track, Gazpacho leads with the nearly 20 minute epic “Space Cowboy”, another name for the aforementioned “fireworker” deep in our minds. This track is a brilliant opener, with incredible diversity and dynamic contrast. As the first song in a series of connected themes, it draws the listener in and keeps them there with compelling and catchy melodic lines, some of which are heard later on the album. Additionally, this track features a menacing choral part, which, according to the press release, serves “to warn the main character against ‘poking around the lair of the animal'”. The rigid, angular choir part is countered with clever polyrhythms by drummer Robert Johansen (who deserves a special shout-out here, as he shines in his new (old) position as Gazpacho’s drummer). Second track “Hourglass” provides a much needed breather- an ethereal and gorgeous piano ballad with harrowing lyrics.
The title track,”Fireworker”, is one of my album highlights. The theme, the music, and the mental imagery are so evocative and in line with the theme, and it features some of my favorite Gazpacho lyrics ever. As the leading single for this album, this song is very much an invitation to ponder the central theme of the album, set to the rhythm and beat of a hypnotic, ancient dance.
“Antique” features a series of dark, ominous contemplations set to a slow and ponderous beat. And it all comes together in the final track, “Sapiens”. This song is the perfect closer, as it wraps up the album’s themes with Floydian bombast, and captures all of the album’s dynamics in one soaring swan song.
Every Gazpacho album has its own strengths, as they explore different elements of human nature. For me, Fireworker has some of their most powerful and effective lyrics. They’re not just brilliantly written symbols and allusions and metaphors- they have a musical quality to them. Take a song like “Fireworker”; lines like “my heart’s a Geiger counter” and “To illuminate/The sky’s a billion burning eyes/a final sulphurous goodbye” are pure poetry. On top of being profound in their own narrative context, they carry a poetic quality that make them as enjoyable to read and sing as they are to hear.
Gazpacho has the unique ability to create an atmosphere that perfectly corresponds with an idea. Each album feels like a distinct sonic journey, pieced together with incredible attention to detail and mood, giving the music an almost cinematic quality. Fireworker is no exception. The band set out to write a profound and thoughtful journey into the darker parts of the human psyche, and the result is a resounding success. All of the elements of this album- the production, the musical direction, the lyrics, the album art- blend together perfectly to propel the theme forward in a way that feels very intentional and cohesive and powerful. Every piece fits, and that’s not something I can often say about any album, especially one so diverse. Fireworker is truly an amazing album. Go forth and purchase.
Gazpachos latest album, Fireworker, was released on September 18th, 2020, through Kscope. Buy it here.