3 out of 5
Produced by: Tod Ashley, Tamir Muskat
Tod Ashley, whether in Cop Shoot Cop or Firewater, almost exclusively operates in one of a few modes: dark, angry and moody; cynical, swoony and snarky; or… kitsch.
The Man on the Burning Tightrope is not a surprising step forward from the preceding Psychopharmacology, though it does move the agenda further away from rock and more toward klezmer, which would put it in line with Tod’s more world-inspired recordings, The Golden Hour and International Orange! In preparation for that, the album leans into the kitsch at inopportune times, and while that was an occasional fun counterpoint to CSC’s / FW’s heaviest moments, here it only upsets the flow and mood of the disc, verily halving it such that the first eight tracks are a good album, and the second eight tracks are a good album, but together… it’s a bit much. This is hinted at even within the first song, Anything At All, which whips through some amusing Tod sing-song bleakness with a killer catchy riff, and then hits an ending point, and just keeps going. Because Tod has a few more variations on his theme, and the song just sort of peters out without a real feeling of conclusion due to that, backed up by our first dose of chintzy silly, Too Much (Is Never Enough). These offerings dot the disc, and aren’t bad, but go against the title track / cover imagery of walking that burning tightrope – Tod’s perpetual ‘life is hard but I keep going’ mentality – that’s otherwise kept up effectively by some bleak, bleak (but still catchy!) songs.
Which makes the disc equal parts best of the best, with fantastically moving songs like Too Many Angels, but with a fair amount of indulgence as well, and a sequencing that doesn’t lend itself to one cohesive experience.