The process of growing up is a complex, knotty one. It varies for everyone, but largely we as people are united in the ruing of how our youth escapes from us before we’ve had a chance to really become acquainted. Moments don’t become moments until we reflect upon them with those rose-tinted glasses, fond memories get pushed out in favour of our new-found anxieties, our perception of time alters drastically and months can flash by without stopping for breath or to watch the setting sun. We’d do anything to preserve our time, in a jar that we can dip into as and when we please, but the inescapable truth is that our time is ultimately finite.
It comes as a real blessing that There Will Be Fireworks have, with their second album, created a wildly effective handbook on coping with such affecting frailties. Fraught with young scepticism and the brininess of regret, The Dark, Dark Bright expends all the energy it can muster on trying to tame the rough seas that lash against it. The often-sought solace of crescendos that is part and parcel with emotionally wrought music is prevalent in such a way that isn’t just manufactured and obtuse. The thematics call for it more than many other acts which splurge on unattained fervour; the band’s name is less an empty promise, more a steadfast assurance.
The Dark, Dark Bright mostly concerns itself with the meeting of people and nature and the way in which they alter one another, and accordingly, it breathes both like a pair of human lungs and the night-to-day transition of the towns we grew up in. ‘And Our Hearts Did Beat’ is a glazed, helpless stare at a landscape overwhelmed by black smoke, especially effective when considering how the lament is such a timeless one: “Not a word, just silence struck upon our tongues, and heaven heaved a sigh out from its lungs.” Glinting strings and vague sound bites pivot into the pound of ‘River’, a constantly accelerating spiral into absolute rapture, turbulently wrestling with its own misgivings. The duelling guitars seem to be having their own meltdown as moaning organs and highly-charged drums strike crevices into the countryside. The vocals are cracked and tinged with anguish, but as the opening monologue from an Iain Crichton Smith poem opines, “it wasn’t the words or the tune, it was the singing. It was the human sweetness in that yellow, the unpredicted voices of our kind.” That glottal Scottish accent is the perfect vessel for it.
By contrast, the starker moments are almost embryonic, relieved of the knife-edge tensions in favour of hushed contemplation. The sleepy swaying of ‘Lay Me Down’, the empty expanse of ‘The Good Days’ and the warmed, delicate letup of ‘Your House Was Aglow’ make for gratifying lulls – and it’s ‘Roots’, the empty air nestled between two foghorn blares, that is perhaps the most forceful and human. Despondent but ever so slightly ingrained with quiet optimism, it grows as a helix, the guitar, vocals and choral gasps orbiting around one another. It seems even more fragile next to the ecstasy of ‘Youngblood’, similar in its covertly hopeful approach towards the uncertainty of young adulthood but with torches and fists held firmly aloft.
With all that can be said for The Dark, Dark Bright, the falling out of love with one’s hometown as we grow older is what resonates the most. ‘Here Is Where’ unfolds like a torturous bus-top tour, highlighting the unshakeable memories that have unceremoniously attached themselves to various surrounding sites like leeches to your flesh: “Here is where I’ve sworn and cursed, and here is where I kissed you first.” The entire song is a run-on sentence that loops around itself, reminding that these flashback-laden hotspots aren’t going anywhere and neither are we. When what was once “holy ground” turns to barren wasteland, carrying the ghosts of what we can still remember, there’s little we can do except look back fondly, when we can.