In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, inspired by the new film Take Me To The River, we’re picking songs that share a title with a movie.
The relation between Man On Fire–a novel adapted twice for film–and Good Luck’s song of the same name is likely tangential at best. While my memory of the 2004 Denzel Washington vehicle is spotty, my knowledge of Good Luck’s 2008 debut album Into Lake Griffy (an album recorded by Lil Bub’s owner, Mike Bridavsky) is innate. When the band sprung up out of Bloomington, Indiana’s then-fertile folk-punk scene, the trio had little commonality with the bands surrounding it. But its ability to turn even the saddest song into a celebration helped bring the scene to its apex. While many Bloomington bands were excelling in acoustic guitars and ramshackle recordings, Good Luck felt like a maturation of that movement, bringing in a technical ability that superseded its peers but didn’t take away from its ability to make fans feel at home in its songs.
“Man On Fire” proves a striking example of what made Good Luck so special in its time, as it takes elements of math-rock—due in large part to Matt Tobey’s unending guitar noodling—and transforms them into something delicate and poppy. Tobey’s vocals feel akin to that of The Weakerthans’ John K. Samson, and even as he weaves a lengthy yarn about love—one full of incidental information and deep-diving introspection—he throws out multi-syllabic phrases without tripping over his words or arpeggiated chords.
Tobey is by no means Good Luck’s anchor, as bassist and co-vocalist Ginger Alford builds countermelodies off Tobey with her powerful backing vocals, and drummer Mike Harpring wrangles these disparate elements until they achieve unity. “Man On Fire” swirls around with subtle movements, finding ways to sneak up and offer new sing-alongs with each and every turn. Good Luck may be in a state of inactivity since the release of Without Hesitation in 2011, but songs such as “Man On Fire” keep its ever-present feeling of celebration rolling on unimpeded, like an expanding brush fire.