"Well, I ain't gonna live in your world no more," sings Firewater's Tod A on the opening track of his latest album, The Golden Hour (Bloodshot Records). The "you" in the sentence refers to two people: the president, and A's ex-wife. Several years ago, after George W. was elected for a second term and A's marriage fell apart, he decided it was time for a serious change. So for three years he wandered throughout India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Israel seeking escape, inspiration, and adventure.
Apparently he found all three. The Golden Hour is the artistic expression of this journey, starting with the aforementioned kiss off, quickly followed by "This Is My Life," where A proclaims, "I lost my home, I lost my wife. This is no joke—this is my life." The album continues as a lyrical and musical narrative mixing the personal with the political—A's mental state and geographic influences are revealed via the instrumentation, styles, and airport announcements recorded during his travels.
The first moment of peaceful reflection comes on the fourth track, "6:45." The percussion mimics the lapping of small waves on a beach where the narrator, having escaped to a foreign land with only himself for company—"to drink alone outside the bar at the end of the world"—still can't get what he's left behind out of his mind. "There's a girl with cold eyes, but her stockings are running," he sings. "And anyway, she's just the end of a melody that sings to me of you."
It works like a unique travel diary told through song. There are aspects of tango, mambo, Balkan folk music, Bhangra, klezmer, and ska, performed by a lineup featuring members of the Jesus Lizard, Gogol Bordello, They Might Be Giants, the Lounge Lizards, and others. Firewater joins an ever-growing number of rock bands exploring the musical influences of Eastern Europe, fusing new rhythms and instrumentation to the passionate energy of rock and the melodicism of pop, a much-needed and overdue development that hopefully will permeate other areas of art and society—maybe even government.