The War of Women
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
According to music critics scattered around the country, the latest, greatest act to hit the stage this year is Joe Firstman, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Charlotte, North Carolina who has been turning his enviable position as the support act for Sheryl Crow into an endless stream of rave reviews and standing ovations. Itís an amusing process to watch as middle-aged men from publications both large and small fall all over themselves to prop up this rapidly expanding bandwagon with their carefully crafted words of praise. Thereís little doubt that Firstman has talent and, more importantly, ambition, but his first, full-length album hadnít even been released when the publicity-machine went into hyperdrive.
For what itís worth, The War of Women is a solid, if largely conventional, affair that fuses classic rock styles in ways that attempt to emulate Counting Crows ó an interesting notion, given that Counting Crows has fallen out of favor with the same people piling on the praise for Firstman. Yet, the fact of the matter is that his lyrics are nowhere near as poetic as those of Adam Duritz, and most of the time, the music seems wholly watered down. Although flashes of his prime influence are sprinkled throughout the set, only Car Door (Dancing in the Aisles) truly captures from start-to-finish the transcendently breezy, country-tinged pop of the Counting Crows.
Indeed, one can see without a doubt where Firstman wants to take his songs, and there are moments when his passion for the material creeps into focus. Too often, however, the tracks on The War of Women wind up falling short of his lofty objectives, veering from something promising into something prefabricated. Itís as if Firstman knows what he wants to achieve but isnít sure quite how to go about capturing it. For example, on Canít Stop Loving You, Firstman reaches for the early work of Bruce Springsteen, and though for a time he is able to replicate the style, by the end of the song, he winds up sounding like a blasť Bob Seger knock-off. Likewise, on Now Youíre Gorgeous, Now Youíre Gone, he takes a stab at crafting a grandiose tune similar in scope to Elton Johnís Madman Across the Water but instead winds up mired within the quicksand of a generic, power ballad.
Itís a shame, really, for on nearly every song on The War of Women, Firstman latches onto something that works, only to see it slip away, falling just beyond his grasp. With time and experience, his goals very well may become attainable, but for now, heís just another singer/songwriter searching for his voice. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box