Fire in the Rose Garden is a neon-saturated tale of complicated romance through incandescent power ballads.
“It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love,” writes American novelist Raymond Carver in his short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” While the profoundly pragmatic approach of Carver’s writing may not have much stylistically in common with the glittering Montreal-based synth-rock group Night Lunch, there remains a similarity in how they interpret and view love: its undefinability.
“You know the feeling of love? / The one that’s true,” sings Lukie Lovechild in the opening lines of Fire in the Rose Garden. Right off the hop, Lovechild uses that simple line to adroitly communicate that the complexity of love is in its indecipherable purity, its existence in its raw form: the truth. Fire in the Rose Garden shows love as a dynamic, ever-changing conviction, proving our naivety in defining the undefinable. We may not know what we are talking about when we talk about love, but Night Lunch’s sophomore album sure as hell examines its virtue.
Fire in the Rose Garden is a neon-saturated tale of complicated romance through incandescent power ballads. It blurs the lines of realism and fantasy, love and hate, through stories of emotional dependency, faith, and grand declarations. Using their history as synth-wave experimentalists, Night Lunch has pushed their sound into the pop world, giving Fire in the Rose Garden plenty of catchy riffs and ear-worm melodies.
“Junkyard of Love” is pop glam to the max. It’s a deceptively simple song with a looping piano chord and straightforward drumming. But it’s all placeholder for the karaoke-style melody that Lovechild fits right into. From his soothing baritone to sky-high falsetto, his voice is the most electric instrument on the song and possibly the entire album. He goes from sounding like George Micheal one moment to sounding like Elvis the next as he patiently whispers, “I’m in the junkyard of your love.”
Fire in the Rose Garden isn’t all soft posey. Possibly the best track, “My Love Is A Rebel,” is a post-punk transmission into a blazing disco. Totally consumed with mania, the driving beat is running so quickly it feels like it’s tripping over itself with passion. It holds the song together with incredible intensity, letting the saxophone fly and the funky guitar solo rip.
Their sound isn’t the only thing that has expanded. Night Lunch has always been a romantic band, but their understanding of what that means has evolved over the years. The instrumental “Adult Sex” from their self-titled release conveys the emotional sincerity of a sensual night in a seedy motel. It’s a wicked song, but it also sees love through instant gratification rather than something with lasting effect. Even “Tonight,” the sexiest song on Fire in the Rose Garden, is lush with emotional intelligence. Lovechild’s sultry voice, floating between artificial strings, sings, “If you feel like I don’t mind/ Well, you know you’re out of feeling inside/ Scream now/ Let me know I’m not alone tonight.”
Fire in the Rose Garden eases into you. What may initially seem overly sentimental or shallow becomes a complex and intimate experience. Like love, the starry-eyed juvenility gives way to a deeper, more holistic understanding of what moves us over time.
Night Lunch shows the way betrayal and broken hearts consume every thought and action until all that remains is an aphotic, empty center. It’s the flames of destruction that flicker and nip at the intimacy of desire. It’s the fire in the rose garden.