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Rock - Released October 22, 1991 | A&M

Chris Stamey's Fireworks wasn't released until 1991, but it was originally recorded in 1988 as Stamey's second solo album for A&M records, who rejected the resulting tapes as too weird and uncommercial. One wonders if anyone at A&M had ever actually heard any of Stamey's music (other than 1987's uncharacteristically straightforward It's Alright, his sole A&M release), since "weird and uncommercial" are the North Carolina-based rocker's calling cards. In fact, Fireworks is less extreme than earlier experiments like It's a Wonderful Life, but songs like the title track, an impressionistic soundscape of overdubbed guitars, are hardly Top 40 fare. Guests include ex-Sneakers bandmate Mitch Easter, Peter Buck, and NRBQ's Terry Adams, but this is definitely Stamey's show all the way. His idiosyncratic songwriting sense (the liner notes claim, not entirely helpfully, that the opaque "The Brakeman's Consolation" is an answer song to an old Cher single) and knack for sweetly memorable melodies battle it out throughout the album, giving Fireworks an odd but productive tension. It's Alright has the edge in terms of songwriting, but this is perhaps a more interesting album overall. ~ Stewart Mason