Everynight Fire Works is the first full-length release
from the Chicago/Milwaukee quartet Hey Mercedes. Three-fourths
of Hey Mercedes were members of the 90s Chicago emo fixture,
Braid, so the band labors in a sizable shadow. However,
comparisons of the two bands are both shallow and unfair.
Hey Mercedes has a style and sound all its own and deserves
to be considered in its own right.
The line-up of the band is a conventional two-guitar rock
ensemble, with Braid veterans Bob Nanna (guitars and
vocals), Damon Atkinson (drums), and Todd Bell
(bass), along with guitarist Mark Dawursk creating
a rich full sound that is reminiscent of Shudder To Think
circa Funeral At The Movies. An initial, casual listen
left me with the feeling that this was generic emo rock, but
closer listening yielded surprising results. There is so much
going on in the interaction among these five musicians that
itís difficult to decide what to focus on. Atkinsonís drumming
is technically ambitious and, along with Bellís solid bass
lines, drives the tunes with both urgency and subtlety. Nannaís
vocals are confident and the lyrics are poetic enough to remain
open to interpretation without seeming pretentious. The aggressive
drive of the songs is tempered and augmented by perfectly
hummable and memorable melodies (I have woken up on more than
one morning with an Everynight track playing irresistibly
in my head).
The interplay between Nannaís and Dawurskís guitars, however,
may very well be the highlight of this record. Throughout
most of the record, the two guitars appear in their conventional
rhythm/lead roles. There are many moments, though, when each
guitar takes on a different lead role and intertwines with
the other in a beautifully noisy way (the standout "Que
Shiraz" contains an excellent example of this, starting
just before the three-minute mark). At other points on the
record (check out the opening of "Eleven To Your Seven"
or the ending of "Quit"), the guitars are overdubbed
with multiple lead, rhythm, and noise parts that create a
rich wall of sound (more like Public Enemy than Phil
And letís not forget the production work by none other than
J. Robbins, whose amazing work with Government Issue,
Jawbox, and Burning Airlines has almost been
overshadowed in recent years by his immensely successful career
as a producer for Braid (yes), Dismemberment Plan,
and many others. Robbins has a fantastic ear for voices, melody,
and rhythm that helps bring out some of the stronger nuances
of the Hey Mercedes sound. Check out the fantastic vocal production
on "The Frowning Of A Lifetime", the busy-but-beautiful
toms on "Every Turn", or the aforementioned orgiastic
layers of vocal parts and guitars at the end of "Quit"
for the most potent examples of the contribution Robbins makes
to this record.
Hey Mercedes emerges from the emo tradition, which means
that they enjoy playing fast. However, some of the most successful
tracks on this record are the slower numbers, in which the
band allows itself to find honest-to-goodness grooves, hidden
just beneath the surface of their softhearted punk esthetic.
In fact, it is at these moments that Hey Mercedes reminds
of those groovy emo godfathers, Fugazi. These sexy
rhythms not only set the hips to wiggling, but they also serve
to highlight the melodic and lyrical strengths of their associated
songs. The half-time skank of "Que Shiraz", for
example, gives you time to notice little poetic moments like:
Youíre smiling like New Jersey on its side. The slow
bop of "Havenít Been This Happy" makes the strong
melody of the tune even stronger and harder to forget. And,
on "Quit" (have I mentioned that track yet?), the
easy-going rhythm that builds to a crescendo seduces you into
singing along with the sing-a-long refrain: By the time
you come to, youíll know just what to do, which, by the
way, has to remind you of the refrain of "Frowning":
When you come to, will you come true?.
At bottom, Hey Mercedes are just plain fun to listen to.
Their spirit and ambition are definitely infectious, and I
defy you to sit still while listening to this record. In fact,
Iím listening to it as I write this, and Iím having a very
difficult time hitting the right keys on the keyboard as I
wiggle in my seat. This is not music that will change the
world or change your life, but it just might change your day.
- Eryc Eyl
- The Frowning Of A Lifetime
- Every Turn
- A-List Actress
- The Slightest Idea
- Eleven To Your Seven
- Que Shiraz
- Our Weekend Starts On Wednesday
- Havenít Been This Happy
- What Youíre Up Against
- Letís Go Blue
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