Eighteen years. Twelve albums. Thirty-plus transatlantic treks. Fifteen Top 40 singles. 350,000 podcast downloads and counting. Arena tours across 11 countries with Guns N Roses. A video trilogy starring Elijah Wood and Ralph Macchio. A feature- length documentary. An oral-history biography. Personal invites from Lemmy to join Motörhead on the road (and on water, for the 2014 Motörboat cruise). For most bands, that would amount to a hell of a career. For Toronto trio Danko Jones, it’s called “warming up.”
Consider that, at a similar point in their careers, The Rolling Stones were easing into the champagne-room disco of Emotional Rescue; KISS were writing power ballads with Michael Bolton;and Iggy Pop was crossing over to mainstream radio with synth-smothered covers of 1950's golden oldies. Fire Music, on the other hand, is loaded with some of the most incendiary, fierce, and downright pissed-off songs Danko Jones has ever committed to tape. This is a record that should come with a hazardous-materials warning sticker—an explosive Molotov rocktail that threatens to melt the very vinyl the record is pressed on.
The music of Danko Jones has always doubled as a form of therapy, a physical and emotional release for those times when love is unkind. Fire Music, however, is what happens when therapy doesn’t work, when all that pent-up agitation is left to stew and gets expelled into pure, merciless, violent rock ‘n’ roll fury. “You don’t listen to love anymore,” Danko sings to the titular “Wild Woman” of the album’s opening track—so, he reasons, perhaps she’ll listen to hate. “The Twisting Knife,” “Gonna Be a Fight,” “Body Bags”— these aren’t mere expressions of frustration, they’re declarations of war: scorched-earth salvos that take no prisoners and spare no survivors, unleashing a torrent of Misfits-worthy “WOAH-OH-OH” and “HEY! HEY!” shout-along hooks that cheer on the destruction with an almost sadistic glee. (Back in 2003, Danko Jones released an album called We Sweat Blood; on Fire Music, they sound like they drink it, too.) When Danko takes the briefest of pauses on “Body Bags” to declare, “I do not forget/ I do not forgive,” it feels like we’ve crossed a point of no return that whatever belief he ever had in love and romance has disintegrated into the darkest depths of his blackened soul.
No doubt, the recruitment of new drummer Rich Knox—formerly of southern-fried Toronto rockers Flash Lightning—has had an adrenalizing effect on band co-founders Danko and John “JC” Calabrese, his rampaging rhythms pushing the veteran duo to new extremes of intensity. But if Fire Music’s first side takes a raze ‘n’ blaze approach, its second act presents less blitzkrieg, more bop— after all, if your world’s gone to hell, what else can you do but laugh? And so the smooth-talkin’ Mango Kid of old reemerges on “Do You Wanna Rock” asking, “Are you ready for the greatest feeling? Are you ready for the time of your life?”—which the song’s slinky, cowbelled boogie dutifully delivers as advertised. The tongue-through-cheek “Getting Into Drugs,” meanwhile, goes for another twirl on the same brass rail as the 2012 lap-dance anthem “Legs,” giving shout-outs to the Stones and Wu-Tang Clan along the way; “Watch You Slide” is a torqued-up blues-punk shuffle that hearkens back to Danko’s maiden mid-’90s romps through the Toronto indie scene (a moment in time further immortalized on the 2014 compilation of early demos, Garage Rock!: A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998). And in the grand Danko Jones tradition of roof-raising, show-stopping, wall-crumbling finales (see: My Love Is Bold’s “Love Is Unkind,” Below the Belt’s “I Wanna Break Up With You,” or Rock and Roll Is Black and Blue’s “I Believed in God”), we have “She Ain’t Coming Home,” wherein all the rage and regret simmering through Fire Music is manifest in a riotous roadhouse-metal gallop and a soaring, arms-interlocked group chorus that audiences will no doubt be singing long after the house lights have turned back on and security escorts them out of the venue.
With Fire Music, you get an album that burns at both ends, showcasing Danko Jones at both their most energetic and eclectic, like a greatest-hits career retrospective made up of all-new material, delivering blasts from the past while blazing trails into the future. “I got a date with dynamite,” Danko sang back in 1996 by way of introduction, “if you got the guts, well, light my match.” Eighteen years later on Fire Music, that offer still stands.