AU Magazine Review 'Man Vs. Monster'

'A huge-sounding, balls-to-the-wall guitar record at a time when weve never needed one more' - 9/10

Fighting With Wire’s timing could scarcely be better. Having spent the last few years building up a reputation as one of the country’s most compelling live acts, they’ve waited until now to unleash their debut full-length via Jetplane Landing’s Smalltown America. With the clamour for a FWW opus to sate their rabid fanbase reaching fever pitch, ‘Man Vs Monster’ is a huge-sounding, balls-to-the-wall guitar record at a time when we’ve never needed one more. The mainstream is drowning in slick, over-produced, feyly pretentious emo, few of the new wave revivalists have been able to replicate first-album success and with the rush of snouts plunging into the reformation trough, even pop is threatening a comeback.

Against this artistically suffocating backdrop, it’s no wonder that ‘Man Vs Monster’ is such a breath of fresh air. This collection strips rock back to its bare bones, turns the amps up to 11 and reclaims the mighty six-string as more than a mere backing instrument. "Cut The Transmission" illustrates this from the off, opening the album in a storm of squalling guitars, thumping bass and pummelling drums, with Cahir O’Doherty’s strangled yelp adding to the sense of urgency. This furious start then gives way to a peach of a refrain, as O’Doherty drawls, “Keep her out of my head,” over a chorus of harmonious “woah-ohs”. The sound is perfect; each individual instrument is given room to breathe, allowing telling little variations in the playing to come to light in subsequent listens.

And what playing it is. Having taken Extreme’s advice and got the funk out on Jetplane’s excellent ‘Backlash Cop’, Cahir is in full rock mode, his flamethrower leads and chunky riffing equally reminiscent of J. Robbins’ work in Burning Airlines and Bob Mould’s on the first two Sugar releases. The rhythm section is just as vital: Craig’s drumming is intricate yet powerful, Jamie’s bass melodic and forceful, the two syncing perfectly to propel the music forward while providing a valuable vocal foil for Cahir’s committed delivery. The songs themselves are pretty damn fine; "All For Nothing" and "Everyone Needs A Nemesis" recall the effervescent pop rock of prime Jimmy Eat World or the Foo Fighters, live favourite "Strength In Numbers" is given a beefy reworking whereas "Long Distance" and ‘The Quiet’ showcase the band’s darker, heavier side. ‘Sugar’, meanwhile, is an absolute cracker, mixing musically inventive, lyrically paranoid verses with an achingly driven chorus, it’s the best song that Braid never wrote.

‘Man Vs Monster’ is, in short, a stunning record. Hell, any band that has the balls to leave the cracking ‘Machine Parts’ single warming the bench knows they’re on to a good thing, and so it proves. In a year which has positively churned out hungry Irish talent, Fighting With Wire are unquestionably sitting at the top table, and they’ve just delivered a late contender for album of the year. 

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DOWNLOAD: ‘Strength In Numbers’, ‘Sugar’, ‘Everyone Needs A Nemesis’
FOR FANS OF: Jimmy Eat World, Burning Airlines, Foo Fighters.

- Lee Gorman, Alternative Ulster