Emo took the power of guitar-based punk rock and fused it with the profound expression of wonder and delight so typical of Whitman. Never mind that the lyrics weren't nearly as eloquent; it was the ideas -- the big, open-mouthed embracing of every emotional nuance -- that typified the style. Sunny Day Real Estate broke up just as the emo-core kids threatened to make them superstars. Enigk then discovered his inner John Lennon with a seriously overlooked solo gem, Return of the Frog Queen, before reforming Sunny Day with a decidedly stronger prog-rock influence.
Once again the band broke up, and now comes the Fire Theft, which features Enigk with one guy -- drummer William Goldsmith -- who had been in both incarnations of Sunny Day, and another -- bassist Nate Mendel -- who had only been in the first. What's the difference between the Fire Theft and late-period Sunny Day Real Estate? Not much, really. There's still a whole lot of tricky chord changes and orchestral counterpoint, still lots of long instrumental passages with occasional splashy pop-tinged hooks. And yes, there's still the feeling that words are not enough, that singing -- or playing, really -- is the only way to express the outsize emotions one experiences when contemplating the pleasures and pain of life.
Assuming the river is a metaphor for experience in general, we can apply one more Whitman capsule review: "Others may praise what they like/But I, from the banks of the running Missouri, praise nothing in art, or aught else/Till it has well inhaled the atmosphere of this river -- also the western prairie scent/And fully exhales it again." Enigk's music breathes pretty well.
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