Speakers In The SkyAnxious & Angry Records
By Cole Faulkner
Ezra Kire, frontman of Morning Glory and ex-member of various other high profile punk rock outfits, is an unlikely candidate to join the stripped down solo circuit. It’s not that his work has lacked an analytical mind or isn’t politically progressive, it’s more that Kire’s reputation was born from what might be termed the “crustier” side of the punk-rock tracks. His brash style is typically associated with a mesh of melodic and frenetic elements that lend themselves more to the mosh pit than the acoustic stage. Yet his latest project, simply titled Ezra, finds Kire stripping down to his most rudimentary level and relying upon little more than his piano and identity as a songsmith. This is Kire unmasked and vulnerable, unlike he’s ever presented himself before.
His debut solo album, Speakers In The Sky, weighs in somewhere between an EP and full length. The eight songs are stylistically split firmly down the middle, with the first four guided exclusively by Kire’s passionate piano notes, followed by an escalating emotional, full-band performance defining the back-half. The melodies for the A-side feel deeply intimate, as if stemming from a place in Kire’s heart he has suppressed until moments before recording. “When you’ve got nothing, nothing ain’t bad, nothing is something you’ve always had,” sings Kire on “Love The World We Have” as his fingers delicately dance upon a bed of a twinkling, almost dreamlike piano notes. Understated and minimalistic, Kire speaks in a meandering tone, communicating thoughts and themes of depression, abasement, and eventual transcendance. His vocal style for tracks like “Civilian Song” carries hints of wandering soloists like Bob Dylan, while during tracks like “Let It Go” he experiments with baritone elements reminiscent of Crash Test Dummies. The latter further serves as a transition point to the album’s more sonically active back-half by gradually infusing drums, chords, and other more conventional elements.
For the second half, Ezra charts a four-song course not unlike that of a punk rock opera. While very distinct in its elements, the b-side easily leaves room for comparison to some of the more successful attempts at the genre’s grandiose ambitions. In many regards, the latter half of Speakers In The Sky is like a modern American Idiot. “Soldier On” sets up with a multi-layered vocal harmony that jolts Kire’s piano to life, leading well into a title track that finds Ezra’s vocals soaring high and free as he draws upon his days in Morning Glory for guidance. Guitars crunch with traditional punk-rock vigor as the album’s message of perseverance and “soldering on” turns a corner and reaches towards the apex of the journey. “Artificial End” marks the album’s denouement in it’s return to piano and vocal harmonies. The track’s particularly eloquent gang vocals and simulated violin make the “na na na” chorus particularly anthemic.
“Corpses Lullaby” offers the album’s parting thoughts by providing closure through open exploratory questions about purpose and transcendence. Returning to baritone vocals and piano as his core, Ezra challenges listeners to “imagine how lost we might be if God weren’t on our side, imagine if the stars were singing a seductive lullaby, to keep the dead from waking up and seeing they’re alive,” after which he seeks peace in offering advice to “go to sleep now, close those corpses eyes.” By the time the track concludes, the album has come full circle, and the message of self-reliance, resilience and hope – while on paper may seem cliche – leaves a remarkably impactful mark.
Of course there’s always two sides to the same coin, and some fans may accuse Ezra of pulling the “sad man with the piano” schtick – like many did with Tony Sly’s late solo work. But such an argument is akin to a parent blaming their child for blazing their own trails and taking chances to pursue their dreams. This is Ezra’s path and one else’s.
Typically themed punk-rock operas are busy, cast of a hundred type affairs – like Fat Mike & Friends – but Ezra goes it alone and comes out stronger for it. Kire recently became a certified pilot, and one can’t help but wonder if his turn to quiet, introverted musicianship could have emerged during long secluded flights high above the landscape. No one could have predicted that Ezra Kire’s solo work would veer in this direction, as Speakers In The Sky brings a level of maturity often absent from the punk rock scene.