Top Five Bonfire Blasters


Finally. Florida has reluctantly recalled her ludicrous lava-esque climate (I’ll admit, I totally lied back in Top Five Introduction to Autumn Albums, back before thermometers really dipped below 72 degrees). Now it doesn’t seem like quite a mental idea to break promises to Smokey Bear and build a fire in your backyard, round up some buddies and enjoy an evening below a blanket of cool, night air and flame-toasted feets (not to mention November 5 is Guy Fawkes Night AKA Bonfire Night in England and New Zealand). It’s all good fun until someone breaks out that tired, acoustic campfire crapper: “Kumbaya.” Dodge this dismal possibility. Grab your closest flannel (if you’re not already sporting one, you psychic punk), some libations and tinder. Here is my compilation of Top Five Bonfire Blasters. You’ve got:

1) “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver

Besides having part of the word “bonfire” in their name, this particular ballad procured from lead singer Justin Vernon’s cabin-hiding days (“For Emma, Forever Ago”) smells enough like whiskey and dried leaves to fit. Bon Iver skimps out on percussion, just to ladle up an extra jolt of kinda-whiny shouty vocals. The recurring “my, my, my, my, my, my, my, my” segments especially wrap a congenial arm around your fire-warmed shoulders and jostles you in an exuberant sort of way. The hoots here and there infect you in a way making them impossible not to imitate (or at least try to).

2) “Let’s Live for Today” by The Grass Roots

It’s no mystery that many kids of our tragic late ’80s/early ’90s birth bracket dream of being young decades before. Especially the 1960s. This one comes from their second studio release, a ’67 album of the same name. Eastern-sounding guitar (and according to our brilliant guitarist/staff writer, Max, it sounds like a flanger effect pedal at work) peels back the curtain of protest-long hair to reveal the optimistic ballad of the flower children/’Nam generation. It’s pretty obvious that Brooklyn’s overplayed MGMT song, “Time to Pretend,” yanked its overall essence from the Grass Roots, dusted it in cocaine and called it original. Also, fun fact: Creed (Bratton) from “The Office” played guitar for the folk band. Doesn’t get more fiery than that.

3) “Massive Nights” by The Hold Steady

A massive night, unarguably. It’s hard not to love Craig Finn and his band of boozers, pumping that classic, phenomenal formula for good rock ‘n’ roll. One thing particularly nailed here, in this anthem from the group’s 2006 album, “Boys and Girls in America,” is the art of group hollers. Barred, tight guitar chk-chk’s and rollicking percussion boogie between Finn’s spoken-sung, nostalgic lines like, “We had some lusty little crushes/ We had those all-ages hardcore matinée shows.” Very sparsely dispersed electric organ nicely mirrors the sporadic airborne embers sure to spark from that bonfire.

4) “How’s It Going to Be?” by Third Eye Blind

Oh, shove it. 3EB prevailed as one of the best bands from the ’90s and lead singer Stephan Jenkins effortlessly makes THE SLEAZIEST lines sound totally OK and often even radio-friendly. From the opening melancholy guitar strums, it’s immediately recognizable. It was hard to evade this particular ditty circa third grade, thus, everyone knows most to all of the words — and given a few blazing bits of marshmallow flicked onto their beat sneaks and a little brew in their bellies, all of the lyrics will at least be attempted (typically filled in with “uh … uh … HOW’S IT GONNA BE?!”).  Although the majority of the song is relatively soft, when Jenkins explodes into the last verse, “Wanna taste the soul of your skin/ The soft dive of oblivion,” you kind of can’t help but lose it.

5) “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix

An obvious choice, right? This one, like The Grass Roots ditty, might have played as soundtrack to the Woodstock-era. It stands forever pertinent. And it’s a damn thin veil Jimi drapes over his obvious ode to some foxy lady’s steaming sexuality/vagina. This man is the reason the phrase “face-melting guitar solos” ever came into existence. Let your ears feast on his left-handed virtuoso’s chord coercion and see if your own face doesn’t feel like it’s slipping ever so slightly off … if it ain’t, you’re probably standing too far from the flames.