Some quarters have suggested that The Man on the Burning Tightrope is a concept album – and certainly there are thematic currents that continue through the album. Firewater brush off the suggestion though “No – maybe the title gives the impression. How could you compete though with the majesty that is Tommy???” Is Tommy the full stop then in terms of concept albums? “Well if the question is how stupid a concept can you come up with – certainly it's about as far as you can go!”
It seems to me though that they're being slightly disingenuous dismissing the concept album – it does contain classic elements, in that it's self-referential.The album references earlier albums (track 10 for example is Ponzi's revenge, while an earlier album was called The Ponzi Scheme), and at the same time they've described the album as snapshots from a road trip, which begs the question: a road trip to where? “(laughs) That would be telling! I like records that make you use your imagination, that put in question marks. I get turned off when people try to tell me what to think or try to give me all the answers”.
Lyrically there are apocalyptic images throughout, with biblical imagery making an interesting counterpoint to the various tangos and strip club show tunes musically. Is there a religious background in there? “Well, I wouldn't say that I have a religious outlook at all.” What about the imagery, with devils and angels abounding? “ I wouldn't say that, I wouldn't say I'm a preacher of doom!” Do you think it's an uplifting album in terms of the lyrics? “Apparently it’s not (laughs). Some people have said it's depressing. (bewildered) It felt more uplifting than our other records. It doesn't depress me, but people say that it's a depressing album – it just goes to show you how out of touch I am!”
In a strange decision, they followed up the studio album with an album of covers. Aside from the surely disastrous commercial implications of releasing two albums at the same time, was it worrying approaching classic songs like Paint it Black or even lesser known songs like Hey Bulldog by the Beatles? ”Sure. It's incredibly cocky and probably a really unwise thing to do – I mean how can you outdo the Beatles? It's not really possible. Having said that, it's all fair game. Paint it black isn't the fuckin’ Mona Lisa, it's just a song. At the same time it was sort of spontaneous. Things were going really well in the recording of Man on the Burning Tightrope – we did 4 or 5 covers for the hell of it, and so when we finished the record, we decided to do some more. It normally takes us a couple of years to get an album together, so it seemed like a good thing to do”.