The Library is on Fire – “Works on Paper”

The Library is on Fire

“Works on Paper”

The Library is on Fire
Works on Paper
January 31st, 2012


Brooklyn’s The Library is on Fire may be one of the freshest sounds that I’ve heard in a while.  With their raw and visceral sound, it took me a few listens through their latest album, Works on Paper, before I could get over my doubts and appreciate their music. Despite this newfound appreciation however, I must say that a bit of criticism is still in order.

Works on Paper immediately had me interested, yet left something to be desired with the first track―“Hypnos Waking”. The driving acoustic backing and hazy, mellow vocals goes on for nearly two minutes, and I found myself waiting for the song to switch into overdrive and give me the sound I was anticipating. It didn’t happen. Granted, the next track jumped right into a stronger, faster jam; but having listened to the previous track, it just wasn’t the song I was waiting for. Thankfully, TLIOF included two additional renditions of their opening track, each building on the last. The final song on the album, “Hypnos Returns” is exactly what I envisioned the last half of “Hypnos Waking” to be. Steve Five and his crew really hit the mark, unfortunately, it came at the end of the album.

While most of the tracks struck me as fresh and enticing, songs like “Basquiat” and “Burn it Down” left me thinking to myself how lackluster and average The Library is on Fire can sound. Most of their tracks on the first half of the album seemed to be made by the numbers; the same formula any alternative or punk band writes their music by―as though they simply turned the amp on the ‘crunch’ setting and jammed while Steve Five laid out some on-the-fly vocals. I often found myself thinking how there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy or out of the ordinary when listening to their early tracks.

While there are a fair amount of songs that one could easily pass on, there are equally as many songs that you simply can’t stop listening to. The “Hypnos” songs are definitely the running highlights of the album, but there are some other gems: “The Broken Guitar”, “They Don’t Know You (Like I Know You)”, and “Stupid Summer Morning”. There’s every possibility that my exposure to mainstream and heavily edited music has ruined my ability to appreciate the raw music in the early tracks of the album. I’m sure we’ll find out if this really is the case when Works on Paper releases later this month.

Interview with Steve Five – January 16, 2012

In addition to reviewing their latest album, I also had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Five―front man for The Library is on Fire. In anticipation of the release of the new album, I had some words with Steve and his crew to find up what they are up to and anticipating for the new year.

Travis: You guys have a sound that I liken to Dinosaur, Jr. and Awesome Color. Do you draw influence from any other groups in particular?

Steve: There are so many groups in particular, there are probably a stable of 100 artists that amaze me when I hear their records. Big Star, Nick Drake, Beach Boys, 60’s psych singles like “She’s My Girl” by The Turtles and “Open My Eyes” by The Nazz, Neil Young, Interpol, Television, The Voidoids, Iggy, Patti, Sonic Youth. I met Kim last summer. She scolded me for saying Dinosaur Jr. uses pop structure. But, for me, they have pop elements and use a pretty standard structure often – anything that utilizes eschewed melodies like J. Mascis’ guitar, I gravitate towards. There’s an excellent overlooked record called I Am The Cosmos by Chris Bell. He used to be in Big Star. The melodies are like incantations. Del Shannon, too.

Travis: I read a report by NBC, New York with a bit on what you guys feel the music scene in Brooklyn and other areas is like. What are you and the rest of the guys of TLIOF doing to help make the Brooklyn scene what you believe it should be?

Steve: I think it’s [Brooklyn] doing just fine for itself. Manhattan is a little different, sort of dried up. I don’t think there’s even a real “scene” in Manhattan anymore. That being said, we’re not a very “social” band. I find networking and promoting our music to be a waste of time better spent on creative output. I do, however, want the chance for our music to be heard. I guess if we’re doing anything to add to the Brooklyn scene, it’s our presence here. We are a product of our time and place, so any creative output, either live or recorded, comes from where we live our lives, as well as write, record, and play. I would like to think we capture a sound; that you could walk down the East Village with our record on your iPod and it wouldn’t feel out of place.

Travis: Listening to Works on Paper, I often found myself wondering how your earlier work compares. While I’m waiting for my copy of Cassette to get here, why don’t you guys describe how you think your music has progressed since your first LP (if at all)?

Steve: The albums have changed, but I think the basic idea for songwriting has always stayed the same, that is: a focus on interesting melodies, concise structuring, and concrete lyrical imagery. The sound has progressed in that our first record was a little more clean and post-punk, our second record was heavier, and our new record has more lush arrangements and disparate styles of songs. With the new record, we were able to execute ideas I’ve had since before the band even started. It’s definitely a 70’s style headphones record.

Travis: I read that TLIOF is already working on Opiate Moon―your next album due out some time later this year. What kind of expectations should your fans have for when the album hits?

Steve: I don’t know, ha! Some songs have been written, and I have a general idea of how I want to possibly record – which would be exclusively on Garageband, using only the built-in microphone on my laptop – but other than that, I don’t know. I would say it will be much more brash and punk. But I could be totally off. We’ll see.

Travis: Any closing remarks for your adoring fans?

Steve: We’re very excited about this: a few of the band members are making a film with our producer Todd Tobias (Guided by Voices, Circus Devils) called I Razor. It’s about a gang of magical freaks, fighting demons in the woods of Ohio. It’s like David Lynch on acid on acid, a freakout hellride. It will be out September 2012, so watch out for it!

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.