Everyone knows what happened to the big acts of the BritRock explosion of the early 2000s – Biffy Clyro now fill arenas, Reuben died and everyone misses them, and Hell Is For Heroes and Hundred Reasons are joining forces this autumn for a victory lap of the UK – playing the albums that never left our CD players in that era one last time. However, what of the undercurrent bands? Those bands that strove to get their head above water, but never got the column inches of their peers? One of those acts was Northern Ireland’s Jetplane Landing, whose sophomore release Once Like A Spark remains one of the most underrated albums ever released. In 2008, JpL frontman Cahir O’Doherty returned with new act Fighting With Wire’s debut Man Vs Monster, and this is the long-awaited follow-up, ‘Colonel Blood’.
The album gets off to an absolute flyer on opener ‘Waiting On A Way To Believe’; gyrating, angular riffs giving way to a monolithic chorus, picking up right where ‘Man Vs Monster’ left off. The lead off single is something of a false prophet (or lost prophet, if you will – the introductory bars are ripped straight from ‘A Town Called Hypocrisy’) however, as producer Nick Raskulinecz has imprinted one of his other credits all over this record – one little-known Seattle band called Foo Fighters. Yes, this is extremely familiar territory for fans of Dave Grohl’s merry men, as their radio-friendly sheen serves as the basis for this album. You might think ‘Hey, that’s okay, Foo Fighters made some good records 15 years ago’. True, they don’t headline festivals without reason, but to take the formula of a band so wholly, especially a band as bland and inoffensive as they are, is inexcusable for Fighting With Wire.
There are moments when FWW do stand their own ground, however few and far between they may be – ‘Graduate’, for example, provides a nod to the esoteric melodic post-hardcore of O’Doherty’s old act Jetplane Landing (a band who deserve their place in the annals purely for calling a song ‘Why Do They Never Play Les Savy Fav On The Radio?’), and penultimate track ‘Blackout’ is pure punk-rock fury, perhaps encapsulating the hindrance of being dropped by Atlantic Records (before Xtra Mile came in to ensure they kept Fighting (With Wire) another day). These moments of individuality frustrate the most, because they show what a great act they could be if they didn’t slavishly ape the actions of others. Even when they’re not Foo Fighting With Wire, they’re taking cues from bizarre avenues – see ‘The Great Escape’, a strange blend of Taking Back Sunday and Lostprophets.
After four-and-a-half-years away, Fighting With Wire haven’t delivered on the early promise shown on ‘Man Vs Monster’ and unfortunately, will follow Cahir’s old act onto the pile of ‘never-quite-made-its’. If you don’t mind a band sticking resolutely to another band’s material, this might be fine for you – after all, Pennywise have gone for 24 years copying everything Bad Religion do and made a decent living out of it. For those with fond memories of Jetplane Landing and their contemporaries, this is a disappointment to say the least; this material will probably sound excellent live, but at the cost of any originality, firmly in the shadow of bigger acts. Not a poor record by any means, just a plodding chore to consume.