The Fire Theft: “Chain”
Every now and then I’ll come across a song that hits me pretty powerfully, yet when I hear more from the accompanying album, it just doesn’t do a lot for me. Such was the case with the song “Chain,” by The Fire Theft, from their 2006 self-titled album. I found it a few years back on Piece of Cake: 20 Years of Ryko, a sampler of songs on Rykodisc that I picked up somewhere. It stood out as a great song, and when I did a little research into the Fire Theft, found that it was made up of Jeremy Enigk, Nate Mendel, and William Goldsmith, all formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, the granddaddies of emo (a “genre” that I’ve never really been all that taken with, to be honest). Mendel and Goldsmith were both part of the initial lineup of the Foo Fighters as well; Mendel is still with them, but Goldsmith left early on. The rest of the Fire Theft album, while certainly not bad, just isn’t really my cup of tea — I don’t think it would hold my attention through more than a couple of listenings.
“Chain,” however, is simply a stunning song. If the whole album was at this level, I imagine it might easily have been considered one of the best albums of the past decade. It fades in briefly with a subdued synth, but then bursts open with Jeremy Enigk’s dramatic wail, with which he proceeds to explore the changes he sees in the world around him. The tension of the song works well with the unusual time signature (not sure what it is, but definitely not the standard 4/4), and the subtly chiming bells ringing in the background highlight the beauty of the melody. The slightly hushed chanted backing vocals (“Change in silence/the rhythm of violence”) that come in midway through the song build back up to the moment, following the guitar solo, when Enigk comes hurtling back, in a moment that has been known to send shivers down my spine. (Known only to me, really . . . it’s certainly not public knowledge. “Oy, there it goes again! Those shivers down his spine — see the goosebumps?”) It’s a powerful song . . . wish there were more where that came from.