Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week 26: "Written in Red" by National Fire Theory

Bright lights. Black Skies.

During my first year living in Kansas City I would occasionally take a short siesta in the afternoon and head over to a used CD store a few blocks away from the church. One day, the guy working the register was playing The Old 97’s on the store’s sound system. I commented that I loved this band. He recommended that I check out the new CD by the band Lucero, which I bought and immediately loved. A friendship was struck.

One day Tim invited me to come hear his band play at a local rock club. I went and had one of the most amazing rock and roll experiences ever. Over the next couple of years I would go to listen to Tim’s band, National Fire Theory, no fewer than 31 times. National Fire Theory is one of the loudest bands I’ve ever heard. While borrowing from the genres of emo, punk, and metal, they play rock the way rock was meant to be played.

With this 26th song of the week, we are now half-way through the 52 Songs in 52 Weeks project. The final song I will write about will be another one by National Fire Theory. Both songs are off their 2003 EP Ending With White Lights. The name of this record conjures images of a life lived too fast. The white lights in the title are obviously the ones found in a hospital emergency room. The title of the record thus indicates a life that comes to an end too soon, by car crash, overdose, or some other tragedy.

“Written in Red” begins with an assault of speedy metal guitar and aggressive drumming. The lyrics soon follow with a short verse describing… well, disembowelment. A melodic chorus then follows. The song quickly rips through two quick verses and two quick choruses before coming to an early bridge. All instrumentation falls away and the lead singer speaks the words, “Bright lights. Black skies.” In between, you hear the lead guitarist drag his pick across the top string of his guitar. As the rock music comes back with a force, the song continues on a different trajectory. “It’s home… when home in nowhere.”

The lyrics to this song are quite opaque and it is difficult to tell what this song is really about. However, I want to venture the interpretation that the song is about feeling at home inside yourself and finding home within. In this way, the angst of NFT’s music (and there is plenty of it) is redirected. After an initial gut-check, “Written in Red” seems to dwell upon the impermanence of outward things, focusing instead on the idea of discovering your own home within.

While I don’t have any youtube videos to share, I will refer you to this website where you can listen to 15 National Fire Theory songs, including “Written in Red.”