Staring At The X is the second album from Forest Fire, and the follow up to the excellent Survival. The initial set up and feel of this album is similar to the debut, although I would assume by osmosis that various influences have crept into the mix before this was completed as the jagged fuzzed guitar lines and drones are more prominent that the first outing (and just as left field with their placement) as well as the introduction of more synth based keyboard lines.

The band has always been a sonic jousting battle between the more Lennon style melodic songs and the audio feedback tidal wave from Nathan Delffs (guitar multi-instrumentalist), and when the balance is on horizon it works perfectly, although in some of the songs here it can get overbearing and drown out the prettiness of the acoustic guitar and vocal parts.

Like a lot of New York bands, somewhere in their creative makeup you will find the DNA of The Velvet Underground, and in my opinion Forest Fire are no exception, although where someone like Adam Green follow Lou Reeds journey, Forest Fire seem to be the son’s of John Cale with drone notes and long amp torture mixed with dark and gothic nursery rhyme like melodies.

Tracks such as the opener ‘Born Into’ show all the various aspects of the group and their own idiosyncrasies, with it’s building opening verse leading on to the chorus, louder and louder like a mini expanding pocket symphony. Later on the track ‘The News’ shows the bands more commercial side to their song writing while at the same time introducing the more unrestrained ‘I Heard Her Call My Name’ type guitar breaks washed in reverb and feedback, although here each phrase is kept controlled so it doesn’t take anything away from the overall piece.

On certain songs the lyrics and music (although complement each other well) sometimes can be confusing as they don’t make any sense and would leave even Bob Dylan and Van Dyke Parks scratching their heads. It’s reminiscent of a technique that David Bowie used by writing a bunch of lines on individual cards then mixing them up in a random order before piecing the verse together from this creative jumble. Of course I’m not saying this is the way it’s been done, but any other way would suggest that simply making the words rhyme has been put higher in priority than giving the song any real meaning or depth, and that’s a shame.