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Firehouse - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Jay Collins, One Final Note

Not to be confused with the wretched American power balladeers or the straw-hat wearing revivalists, this Firehouse is a sparkling Swedish quintet lead by distinctive guitarist John Lindblom. Caught during a live setting at Stockholm's "place to be", the Glenn Miller Café, Lindblom has assembled an impressive roster of young Swedes, including reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist, trumpeter Magnus Broo, bassist Johan Berthling, and drummer Kjell Nordeson.

As for Lindblom, while he may not have the name recognition of the others, he has played with many forward-looking Swedish talents, with perhaps his most splendid association being vocalist Lindha Svantesson's foil on her Far From Alone record. Soundwise, Lindblom eschews seamless arpeggios with calculated fluidity; rather, his marvelously untidy, splintering, distorted notes add both a freshness and unpredictability, attributes that heighten the emotional character of Lindblom's seven compositions.

The candor, passion, and ability to incite attuned interplay found in the guitarist's writing makes for a cohesive and attention-grabbing whole. The band's moniker couldn't be more appropriate on the first song of the evening, "Cyklone Song", commencing with Lindblom's downright nasty (in a good way), in-your-face guitar, which sparks the rest of the rhythm section to pulse with a blistering fury as the horns soar above. "Nothing Too Eccentric" also thrives on bustling rhythmic drive, as the thematic statement gives way to striking solos from Lindblom and Ljungkvist, whose tenor boils over as the clock ticks. Lindblom's anthemic themes are the lifeblood of his writing, yet the concluding remarks of "What I Say" does the label's namesake proud, not for its sonic intensity, but rather for its spirit.

While Lindblom relishes designs that provide room for his bandmates' expression, he recognizes the potency of melody and such signals guide the calmer pieces throughout. The mournful ballad "Slow Glow" shimmers with floating rhythmic waves serving as an inspiration to Broo, whose buzzing lines go straight to the heart. Likewise, "Sing Song" is another forlorn theme that highlights Broo's magnificence and Ljungkvist's tenderness. The two-chord musings of "Bright Lights, Clear Fights" also serve as a vehicle for restrained, though slightly mysterious harmonizing, as Ljungkvist's tenor contributions ratchet up the piece's spiritual elements. Finally, "Inner Place, Outer Space" is Lindblom's most abstract foray, inspiring visions of frigid planetary terrains with an undercurrent of Asian tonalities bubbling underneath.

Yet another exciting group from Stockholm's vibrant creative community, Firehouse's blend of restlessness and introspection allows Lindblom to step to the fore with unprecedented focus.