Rosegarden Funeral Party
In the Wake of Fire
Rosegarden Funeral Party has never had an issue with power: the Dallas quartet’s sound has always been big and bold, striking a balance between trad-rock, glam and goth sounds, and put over the top by vocalist Leah Lane’s tremendous voice. New album In the Wake of Fire shows them adjusting their approach slightly, with their penchant for strong hooks and choruses now supported by additional synth filigree and arrangements that take on a regal, archly dramatic posture, an effect that’s as striking as it is complimentary.
It’s an organic enough shift that actually pinpointing it can be a little tricky; fortunately there are a lot of tracks that prove illustrative. “Painless” is the sort of straight ahead rock number that was the backbone of the band’s excellent 2019 LP Martyr but given a healthy dollop of synthesizer texture and smart arrangement choices – see how Lane drops her vocal line after the final chorus for the song’s outro, hammering home the tension between the song’s bracing rush and pining self-doubt – the song grows in stature. The opening title track is perhaps the best example of RFP’s renewed commitment to going big; the enormous chorus just keeps pushing upwards on the backs of bubbling synths and big guitar chords, pausing in momentum only to allow Lane to do a solid vamp that rockets the track into the stratosphere.
The kind of grandiosity that Rosegarden Funeral Party are dealing in on can be a bit exhausting simply by virtue of how cranked to 11 it is musically and emotionally; Lane rarely sounds like she isn’t singing her entire heart out, and the songs are put together to support that go-for-broke approach. The band are smart enough to pepper the album with shorter interstitial instrumentals that allow for breathing room, but it’s never long before another splashy chorus is soaring overhead. It’s less of a fault than it is a general function of the record’s extravagance and to be clear it’s not like the LP is without subtlety: interestingly you can hear them connecting to some of their root genres in new ways throughout. “Polaroid” is driven by a solid new wave and disco rhythm section, but the main guitar motif is pure goth-rock riffing. And closer “Hymn” is a torchy ballad of the sort the band has done well with, but skeletonized musically so the chittering electronic percussion and softer organ tones remind the listener of some of the more languid moments in the classic post-punk canon.
Rosegarden Funeral Party’s gambit on In the Wake of Fire is one big double-down: the songs are bigger, the sound is bigger and the performances are bigger than ever before. It pays off in terms of impact, with enough substance in the songwriting to support the outsized delivery. In this case Rosegarden Funeral Party have managed to make bigger equal better.